International Women’s Day coincides this year with the 40th anniversary of Pilar Pla inheriting the almacenista bodega Maestro Sierra after her husband’s death. In those days it was most unusual for a woman to run a bodega, though there were some, but her mother told her there were only two paths she could follow: either hide away and grieve or face up and fight. Luckily for us all she chose the latter but in a very masculine world she was considered mad, then it was assumed the bodega was a hobby she would soon tire of, but gradually her persistence and hard work paid off and she earned the respect she very much deserved.
|Doña Pilar and Carmen|
It was very hard at first. Women were supposed to bring up the children and look after the house and were not allowed access to the various trade forums where business was transacted. Her female neighbours supported her however, and brought her food at the bodega and they discussed their problems. Even today, their children come by to say hello. She was also supported by her daughter Carmen Borrego, whose salary as a professor of history helped keep them going. In fact the bodega is the only one run by women; the oenologist is Ana Cabestrero Ortega, and the quality of the wines is beyond doubt.
In the 1980s they supplied wine to Lustau for their Almacenista range which was very useful business, but in the early 1990s Lustau stopped buying the wine and so they decided to bottle it themselves, buying a second hand bottling line in Rioja. Now in her nineties – though she won’t give away her exact age – and a bit hard of hearing, Doña Pilar takes great pleasure in the fact that times have changed. While there is still some machismo, there are now many women working in the Sherry trade.