This pharmacist by profession landed at The Wine & Country Club to become the heart and soul of the wine world surrounding this innovative project located in Ronda (Malaga), and to make it possible for all residents to get their own harvest in and produce their own signature wines.
Ana de Castro is a nature lover and a passionate wine aficionado, so this career shift—driven by a thirst for adventure—came quite naturally to her. In her opinion, no two days are exactly alike with regard to the world of wine, where “no matter the plans you make, something new and exciting always comes up that keeps you on your toes and constantly learning”, as Ana quite rightly puts it. Today, we chat away happily and get to know her a little better.
What does TWCC mean to you?
Eco-luxury is the name of the game. The Wine & Country Club accords residents the privilege of witnessing the rhythms of an authentic and largely unchanged way of life, where every attention to detail has been afforded, including dream amenities and all possible creature comforts, and where residents are allowed the possibility of producing their own wine! It is about diving headfirst in the world of viticulture and oenology, and enjoying it with minimal added effort or complications. Life here is slow, unhurried and stress-free, so all you need to do is take the time to enjoy it and take it all in.
How was this whole idea for an eco-inspiring project hatched?
It was all thanks to Jorge Viladomiu, the key driving force behind this unique project; a true visionary who knew how to appreciate the length and breadth of the Andalusian meadows and saw it as the perfect place to develop a truly wonderful and exciting project. Others followed suit soon thereafter, not wanting to pass up the opportunity of delighting in the simple pleasures offered by Sierra de Ronda, and the mysticism and magic of its namesake city.
What is a day in the life of a winemaker like at TWCC?
I never know what the day holds in store for me! That is what makes every day so special. We are always on the watch and keeping a close eye on nature, the vineyards and, of course, our wines. We have some pre-defined tasks, but we rely heavily on weather conditions and the quirks of nature; sometimes the vineyards suffer a few blows, so we need to properly care for them before they can take a left hook… it feels wonderful not knowing what is waiting for us with every new sunrise and how the day will pan out.
As for life at TWCC, would you define it as the perfect destination to unwind?
Horseback riding across your vineyards and centuries-old holm oaks; dining outdoors on the terrace under a starlit sky; wallowing in the pool in summer or curling up by a log fire on your estate’s porch—which you yourself have designed—with vin rouge in the winter… what more can you ask for? The Wine & Country Club is a little slice of heaven where you can easily forget everyday trivial problems and the stress that once haunted your daily life.
And now, let us move on to your true passion, the world of wine. What makes a winemaker?
A good winemaker is one who knows how to interpret Mother Nature—which sometimes throws you a curve—, goes through the rows, tasting berries for flavour components and knowing when to harvest the grapes, and has an almost fanatical attention to minute details. Winemaking is basically a matter of getting great grapes and doing as little as possible to them. A winemaker must make some 200 decisions on each batch of wine before the cork is finally plunked into the neck of the bottle. A misstep in any one decision, no matter how small, could create a problem somewhere down the line.
How does a winemaker experience the harvesting of the grapes?
With burning enthusiasm; waiting all year for that magical moment to come. After all, we spend the most part of the year looking at the skies all the time, worrying about rain, and seeing flavours starting to develop—and waiting for them to come up is nerve-racking; it is a waiting game that makes your stomach go around. A process that takes so much time, dedication and effort is keenly awaited by all parties with great hopes that everything shall go smoothly. Decisions are important but not as important as the timing stuff.
How do you help residents with their winemaking?
Wine is something very personal. You have to get to know each owner and their tastes. Then, little by little, they are the ones who guide me. I mean to say that each wine is unique, so I am devoted to helping each owner, after the harvest and subsequent process, obtain the wine that they always have wanted, trying to mirror the exact nuances and flavours that they request.
What is the secret recipe to a fine wine?
There is no such thing as a secret recipe. A fine wine is one that makes you vibrate; one that you are passionate about, and one that reminds you of something or transports you. We may very well have two distinctly different types of wine on a table and have one person liking one better than the other, and vice versa. The reason being that wine is something very personal, something subjective—much like an opinion.
Define the perfect tasting
The perfect tasting is one in which everyone takes part. Regardless of whether you are a wine connoisseur or not, every perception or flavour—that is to say the visual, olfactory and gustatory sensation it triggers when tasted—is much appreciated.
A wine’s subtle nuances of colour and texture can jog personal memories that escape others. The more feedback a wine inspires the better!
Are you a white or red wine drinker? What is the perfect pairing in each case?
I like all kinds of wines, although I have lately been opting for whites or reds that do not abuse prolonged ageing in wood. I am known for preferring pure wines that clearly reveal the grape variety and type of soil where they have grown. As for pairing, I highly recommend some merry talk, lively sallies of wit and a great laugh with friends.
And last but not least, does Ana De Castro believe to have found her Ikigai at TWCC?
Without a shadow of a doubt! TWCC allows me to restore links with nature and the environment, to have new experiences every day and develop professionally. It provides me with the opportunity and privilege of being able to recover the vine-growing plant heritage of my beloved Andalusia. And, ultimately, I feel privileged to be able to do what truly makes me happy. The minute I set foot at TWCC, I knew I had found somewhere that would stick in my mind for many moons to come.