Female Disruptors: How Elena Adell of Campo Viejo Wines Is Shaking Up How We Think Of Winemakers
When you are faced with a new harvest, the only thing you can be sure of is that the grapes are different from any others you may have vinified. Moreover, once you have made the wine, it is in constant evolution and you must take care of it, follow it, guide it at every moment.
As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Elena Adell, Chief Winemaker of Campo Viejo Wines.
Elena Adell was born in Logroño in 1958 and has been involved in winemaking since 1985. She started working with Campo Viejo in 1998.
The granddaughter of a grower, she studied Agricultural Science at university, specializing in viticulture and oenology. In her own words, “It was virtually inevitable that I would end up with vines and wines”.
Adell says she sets out to make singular wines with their own personality. “I believe wine is something to be enjoyed with company. It’s an essential part of celebrations when you want to share a joyful occasion or a quiet dinner with friends. My aim is to make wines that add a special touch to any occasion, wines that make you feel like drinking another glass.”
An expert in Rioja winemaking, Elena Adell has unmatched experience in working with Tempranillo. Her aim is to discover new ways to create interesting, expressive wines that best showcase the vibrancy of Rioja and Tempranillo. “I adore working with Tempranillo. It’s such a versatile grape. I love seeing the many different ways it can express its character in such a diverse range of wines.”
Few winemakers are lucky enough to help design the wineries in which they work but Elena was involved in the plans for the new Campo Viejo winery from the early stages, which has allowed her to create the ideal conditions to continue her love affair with Tempranillo. “This fabulous winery gives me a great platform to build on the values which have made Campo Viejo one of the world’s favorite Rioja.”
Thank you for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this particular career path?
I’ve always liked watching plants grow, so I decided to become an agricultural engineer. A technician in agriculture who is born in Rioja seems to be predestined to devote their life to viticulture, so that is what I specialized in. And, when I had the grapes in my hands, I decided to take the next step and turn them into wine, so I worked as a winemaker. In other words, it was curiosity that led me to my current job.
Can you tell the readers what it is about the work you’re doing and why it is disruptive?
In short, I make wine. And doing it is exciting. You may ask why. Because every harvest is a challenge. When you are faced with a new harvest, the only thing you can be sure of is that the grapes are different from any others you may have vinified. Moreover, once you have made the wine, it is in constant evolution and you must take care of it, follow it, guide it at every moment.
We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
I believe that my teachers at school, my professors at university, each of the professionals with whom I have been lucky enough to share knowledge, experiences, doubts, certainties (few)… they have all influenced me and helped me to be the way I am and to know what I know. It would be unfair to single out just a few, simply because memory plays tricks on me and I don’t remember them all.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each
- We were pondering a microbiology problem and Eulogio Pérez-Pardo, the first great winemaker I had the honor of working with, said to me: “When faced with a problem, don’t let it drive you crazy. Usually the cause and the solution are simple, sometimes obvious. You just have to change the perspective to see it clearly.”
- And this other piece of advice has a lot to do with my answer to the previous question: “Stay alert. You can learn from everything.”
- But maybe the best advice I ever got was given to me by the father of my best friends: Elena, if you’re given a choice between life A and life B, always choose life A. And I think it needs no example or explanation.
How are you going to shake things up next?
The way I always try to do them; very carefully.
Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?
I will always remember one of my literature teachers. She was a nun. Her last name was Mateos. She was very old, very cultured, and possessed a sly sense of humor, and also a hint of freshness that I’m sure she retained to the end. To her I owe my love of reading and my fondness for giving all my experiences a note of joy and humor.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I think respect is a wonderful concept. Our well-being, even our survival is based on it.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I recognize that the death of my mother and that of one of my friends marked me. They died young and that made me realize that we have to enjoy every single moment that life gives us intensely. And this must be done, without upsetting anything, or anyone.