Meet Your Spanish Wine Matchmaker: Nicole Andrus of Folio Fine Wine Partners

3/28/2018

This story is part of our “Women in Wine” series — an ongoing effort to highlight the women shaping today’s evolving global wine industry. From winemakers to sustainability specialists to executives, these are the women among the vines to watch in 2018.

Nicole Andrus initially traveled to Spain in pursuit of a romance. But the true love affair, it would turn out, was between her and Spain. 

“When I came to Spain I immediately fell in love with the country’s dedication to food, to family and to friends,” said Andrus. “To me, these are quality things in life.”

Nicole  Andrus is now the Spanish Imports Specialist for Michael Mondavi’s Folio Fine Wine Partners, and lives in Spain permanently with her husband and two children.  

“We still praise the Spanish on a good day. We get frustrated with the Spanish on a bad day. We now speak the local language as well,” said Andrus. “Spain is our home.”

Raised in California’s Napa Valley, Andrus grew up in family of winemakers. Her parents founded Pine Ridge Winery in 1978 and Archery Summit Winery in Oregon in 1994. Under her parents’ guidance, Andrus was involved in every aspect of the family’s wine business, including performing lab analyses, which in turn sparked her passion for biology and botany.

In 2002 Nicole accepted a position in the research and development department at Bodegas Miguel Torres in Spain. She worked at Torres for two-and-a-half years before becoming an independent wine consultant for various Spanish wineries interested in exporting their wines to the U.S. market. In 2005 she joined Folio Fine Wine Partners as the company’s Spanish Imports Specialist , where she splits her time between working with producers, guiding industry groups through Spain’s famous wine-growing regions and traveling stateside to educate American consumers on Spanish wines.

We sat down with Andrus at just such an event in Kohler, Wisconsin—the Kohler Food and Wine Experience— and took the opportunity to pick her brain about all things Spanish wine.

 

Nicole Andrus Pull Quote

 

How did you first start learning about Spanish wine?

I received my master’s degree in molecular plant systematics, and before moving to Spain I was studying a plant genus endemic to the Galapagos Islands. Luckily, when I did arrive in Spain I was hired by Bodegas Torres to work in their micro-vinification department where I would perform tests on different prototype vines. This entailed studying different vine hybrids, testing different enzymes, different yeast strains or different temperatures for fermentation. Torres also had a lot of small experimental vineyards, so I learned a lot about the local Catalan varieties while working out in those vineyards. From there I just started to explore other regions and varieties throughout northern Spain.

I may have the title of a Spanish wine expert, but I’ve barely scratched the surface of southern Spain where there are vineyards and wineries I still need to explore!

 

For U.S. customers who want to start learning more about Spanish wines, where do you suggest they start?

For consumers looking to try Spanish wine for the first time, I always ask them what styles of wine they traditionally drink. If someone drinks a lot of white wines, I would start with an Albarino, which is unoaked and have some orchard fruit, citrus and tropical fruit characteristics. For those that like Pinot Grigio or Pinot Gris, maybe I’d introduce them to a Chenin Blanc.

For those who really like California Cabernet, I'd suggest trying Priorat. If you like old-world French wines, or old-world Italian wines, I would say try Tempranillo from the inner region of Spain. 

 

 

Do you see more U.S. customers and consumers starting to explore Spanish wine?

Absolutely, and the trend is growing. Spanish wine imports have increased, not exponentially, but between five and eight percent the last 10 years in a row.

I also find that people's knowledge of Spanish wine is growing as well. I remember when I first started selling Spanish wines in the states, a lot of consumers through that Rioja was a variety or came from the color red. Now, people know that it is a region that's known for Tempranillo and other varieties like Garnacha and Graciano. The basic wine knowledge for the average consumer about Spanish wines is increasing every year and I’m excited about that. It means that they're interested. They want to learn more about wines from Spain and in turn they’ll be drinking more Spanish wine as well.

Read more from our Women in Wine series: Doing Good with Elizabeth Drake and Bonterra Wines

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