When I first stepped inside the stunning Petra winery located in Tuscany’s Maremma area, I knew something was different. It wasn’t the eye-popping Mario Botta design of the entire complex or just the way the wine was stored in what was nothing less than a cathedral for grapes, or how it poured down slabs of stone to great visual effect. It was the women who were there to welcome our group – yes, you read that right, women.
In a country of 300,000 wineries and just a cluster of women at the helm…(sorry, pun mercilessly intended), you knew right from the start that receiving a warm welcome by enologist Francesca Moretti and the entire experience to follow would be a game changer. Which brings me to my favorite podcast on all things Italy, in which my close friend Wendy Holloway dives in deep with experts to muse about various topics near and dear to them – and an episode I recently downloaded on women-owned wineries.
Women and wine
Wendy interviews wine expert Cynthia Chaplain from VinItaly International about the women who are breaking through the wine glass walls across Italy to bring some decidedly refreshing approaches to an age-old industry. It seems that a number of women either inherit their family-owned business after the passing of a patriarch (and after they have been fully infused with their own enologist or winery management creds) or, they simply embark out on their own winery or sommelier adventure, with amazing results.
When asked where we could find some exciting women-owned wineries, Cynthia mentions a few in Sicily, a place that doesn’t usually come to mind when we think of women’s equality. But Sicily, being a sort of frontier setting, it’s not so surprising that women there make a difference. With some of the more positive take-aways I got from the podcast, I can tell we’ve certainly come a long way from just 30-odd years ago when an Italian friend, armed with her Colombia University MBA was told by La Famiglia that she would not be joining the family firm.
Petra Winery in Tuscany
So with that, I invite readers to visit some of these incredible wineries, first and foremost, the Petra Winery if you happen to be traveling up the west coast of Italy near Pisa into Tuscan horse country, La Maremma. You can book one of their experiences, with a wine tasting that includes the vineyards as well.Petra Winery, Società Agricola Petra, S. Lorenzo alto, 131, 57028 Suvereto LI, Italiy - https://www.petrawine.it/en/home-english/
Lungarotti Vineyard, wine from Umbria
In Umbria, we have the Lungarotti Wine family, whose wines are some of my very favorites. The matriarch runs it with her two daughters. Over the decades, she also has taken her personal collection of all things wine-related (including artworks from Picasso down to ancient history) to make two wonderful jewel boxes of museums in Torgiano, just a stone’s throw from Deruta (the famous village of gorgeous hand-painted pottery).
Don’t let the names fool you: Wine Museum + Olive Oil Museum. You will find nary a bottle perched in there.They also run the tidy agriturismo, Le Tre Vaselle Resort & Spa with its two restaurants. In Torgiano be sure to eat at Siro restaurant on the outskirts where you’ll find on exhibit dozens of paintings made with wine for their annual art competition right on the Strada del vino e l’arte, appropriately named if you ask me. Don’t be fooled by its outer appearance – it’s pure magic inside, and the locals all know it.Lungarotti Wines, Lungarotti Az. Agraria, Viale Giorgio Lungarotti, 2, 06089 Torgiano PG, Italy - http://www.lungarotti.it/Le Tre Vaselle Resort & Spa, Via Garibaldi, 48, 06089 Torgiano PG, Italy - Make a reservationRistorante Siro, Viale Giordano Bruno, 16, 06089 Torgiano PG, Italy - http://hotelristorantetorgiano.it/
Prime Donne Project of entrepeneur Donatella Cinelli Colombini
And, in support of the woman who started it all, Tuscan wineries(!) owner Donatella Cinelli Colombini, who, after contacting the Siena Enology school for a wine master, only to hear they had none – that is, unless you wanted a woman since no winery worth its grapes would hire them, started her Prime Donne Project (First Women). But not before hiring an outstanding woman vintner and women staff first.Her Prime Donne Project and prize recognizes outstanding women journalists and photographers who make ideal role models as they forge new paths ahead for women, young and old.
The Casato Prime Donne Winery in Montalcino was the very first entirely women-run winery – ever – and, along with her Fattoria del Colle di Traquando, offers tours, tastings, and Master Classes on their signature Brunello and San Giovese reds. Like many wineries today, you can also stay at her 5 hectare agriturismo, La Fattoria del Colle.Casato Prime Donne Winery, Località Casato, 17, 53024 Montalcino SI, Italy - http://www.cinellicolombini.it/
Donna Fittipaldi in Bolgheri
In the heart of Tuscany wine country, the Fittipaldi Menarini clan set up shop, so to speak, by planting vineyards for what would become their Donne Fittipaldi label. Fifteen years later, Maria runs the estate with her four daughters, Carlotta, Giulia, Serena, and Valentina producing wines where grapes meet artistry.
Their five labels show off their boutique nature and in-depth knowledge of varieties: Primo Superiore Bolgheri Rosso DOC , Donne Fittipaldi Bolgheri Rosso DOC, Donne Fittipaldi Bianco IGT Toscana (from a small patch of Sauvignon Blanc), Malaroja (100% Malbec), and their newest, Lady F (100% Orpicchio).
Since 2016, the vineyard has been a vehicle for young graphic designers to create unique labels for their magnum limited editions as part of their annual Premio Donne Fittipaldi prize.
Sweet Cider from Trentino
But my amore for women-owned wineries would not be complete if I did not mention one establishment that really opened up my eyes and my taste buds. In the northern Trento area (and the land of Franciacorta not far from Verona’s bubbly prosecco region of Valdobbiadene), I received an exclusive view into the making of sweet Cider – the drunken cousin of my Michigan apple cider childhood – by a woman who is practically single-handedly (okay, with the help of her son and husband) producing this delectable beverage from the apple varieties that abound in the area, in both artisanal beers and bubbly drinks and other products.
You could see owner Lucia Maria Melchiori’s touch in everything they do, from keeping the industry alive, selling far and wide, and employing loads of young people from across the Val di Non, basically, Italy’s Apple Valley Farms. Her all-natural products are made into vinegars, drinks with ginger or bergamot, and she even offers a kosher line that she sells in Israel.
Check out all the Melchiori Sidreria has to offer here.LUCIA MARIA MELCHIORI S.R.L., Via S. Barbara, 2, 38012 Loc.Tres, Predaia TN, Italy - http://www.luciamaria.it/
Wine from Mt Etna in Sicily
But what about those enterprising Sicilian women making wine under the shadow (and atop the fertile ground) of Mt Etna? Here are a few to choose from:
- Biondi Vineyards is centuries-old, but the grape groves were infused with new life by Stef Biondi and her brother in 1999. They strive to use more sustainable practices to produce their top quality wines, too.
- Cottanera Winery • Mariangela Cambria is known for its top wines. It was converted from a hazelnut grove in the 1960s to our great delight!
- Firriato Winery is a husband and wife team, with Vinzia Di Gaetano as CEO
- Trente Dayini Hargrave Vineyard started just 20 years ago by Belgian Trente Hargrave and Filip Kesteloot, former art dealers. In just this short time, their wines have become world renowned.
In wrapping up, how can you imbibe in some of these women-made wines wherever you are? Take action by asking your wine shoppe owner to add them, have conversations, keep asking your favorite Italian restaurant…Together, we can see to it that these wines get to occupy the rightful places on tabletops that they deserve.
Hear more about these and others in Wendy’s Flavor of Italy podcast. https://flavorofitaly.com/flavor-of-italy-podcast/wine/the-top-influential-women-in-italian-wine/
Lisa Tucci is your guide to Italy , contact her by phone at +39 348.313.7678 or via email
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