Though born in Galicia, Spain, and a graduate of the University of La Rioja, Susana Esteban has adopted Portugal as her home and Portuguese wines as her work. After winemaker stints at Douro-based Quinta do Côtto and Quinta do Crasto in the late 1990s and early 2000s, she moved south to the Alentejo region in 2009.
Esteban established her own winery there two years later, based around two old-vine vineyards. She now makes wines under the brand names Procura and Aventura.
She also works as a consultant for other area wineries and produces additional wines, called Crochet and Tricot, in partnership with friend and fellow winemaker Sandra Tavares da Silva of Wine & Soul.
“I discovered very young what I am passionate about,” says Esteban. “I determined then to devote myself to achieving what I set out to do. It is a work in progress.”
Why did you want to become a winemaker?
I always wanted to work in something related to agriculture, and although I had no family history in the winemaking industry, I was always very curious about everything to do with tasting: aromas, textures, etc.
When I was studying chemistry at the University of Santiago de Compostela, I started to sign up for tasting courses and winemaking seminars. I went to work at wineries during the harvest. I was passionate and decided to dedicate myself professionally to winemaking and studied enology at La Rioja University.
“Although I had no family history in the winemaking industry, I was always very curious about everything to do with tasting.” –Susana Esteban
Did you have any role models?
I did not have a single role model because it was a world I did not know, although in my area, Rías Baixas, there were always many enological women who were a source of inspiration for me.
What is your proudest achievement?
I managed to work on what I love. I became a wine producer and created my own project from nothing.
What was the most surprising experience or encounter you’ve had as a female winemaker?
From a positive point of view, that the most prestigious magazine in Portugal gave me the award for the winemaker—in Portuguese, it is a male title—in 2012. I was the first and still the only woman to win this recognition and curiously I’m not even Portuguese. From the negative, at the beginning of my career, I had many situations of colleagues in the wineries where I worked who did not take me seriously. They were not used to seeing a woman lead a team in the cellar or in the field.
What is your advice to someone interested in entering the wine business?
Do not be in a hurry. Try to work with people who inspire you. Be aware that this is a calling, that you need passion as well as results.