Updated: May 3, 2022
When you think of Tuscany, ideally, your imagination immediately becomes filled with rolling green hills, vineyards at every angle, cypress trees lining those never ending windy roads, fresh pane sciapo (unsalted bread) with freshly drizzled olive oil and to go with that, a hearty glass of wine. Tuscany gives us its natural beauty everyday but it doesn’t go without its people, the community which completes this land, its heart is built on hard work and unity.
From the Alps to Sicily vineyards are born nestled in clay or dirt, on mountains, and within the hills. Each one curates a unique wine for us to try and enjoy. Culturally, wine is the beverage that is always on the table, in the kitchen, or (if you’re lucky) in a neighbour's cellar ready for you to try their homemade batch. It is the drink that often brings people together as well as the process. Families pass down their wine-growing techniques with each generation. Traditionally, winemaking had always been men's work. This is predominantly because the land had only been allowed to be inherited and sold to men. While winemaking is still a male dominated field today, women have been extremely successful in growing sustainable wineries as well as award winning wines. Let’s raise a glass to that!
Virginie Saverys, a Belgium native, is the perfect example of a woman who does not see limits. Previously she had worked successfully in law but had moved to Tuscany to pursue her dream in the wine industry. She had acquired Avignonesi in 2009 and began her new journey from there. With Saverys commitment to her strong beliefs in organic farming methods, she has prosperously created the Largest biodynamic winery not just in Tuscany… but in Italy!
Speaking of sticking to your beliefs… Caterina Dei, has always beaten to her own drum… literally, she’s a musician! Initially Dei had believed her life was meant to belong to the art world. It was one of life's pleasant surprises that brought her to wine. Dei’s family had been in the wine industry for almost 60 years when her grandfather first bought their vineyard in 1964 right here in Montepulciano. She wanted to continue her fathers dream of creating top quality and sustainable wine and for over 20 years she has been flourishing doing just that.
Female Winemakers have taken on a whole new perspective to wine making. They have transformed what was considered to be a quite rugged process and brought to life the development of creating more fine and elegant unique wines. Not to mention they tend to lean into the natural realm, focusing on really savouring what nature has to offer. Sticking to this method, the outcome becomes only using the best and most effective processes for both the wine and the environment.
Arriana Occhipiniti is a pioneer in biodynamic winemaking. Her vineyards in Sicily lay 12 miles from the sea on one side while on the other is the active Mount Etna protecting her vineyards from harsh weather conditions. Her vines grow both in sand and limestone soil allowing for the creation of pure southern Italian natural wines. While touring Arianna’s impressive vineyards you can also find a garden of fresh vegetables, and plants, which continues to prove Arianna's effort in creating a true sustainable land and winery.
A wine maker who also stresses a focus on protecting the environment while creating wine, Miriam Caporali, of Valdipiatta in Montepulciano. Miriam took over her family's winery in 2002 and has been fearlessly leading the way since. She believes in truly “getting to know” her own vineyards, truly giving key attention to each grape, analysing thoroughly the parameters of her vineyards as well as analysing the sugar and acidity levels. Miriam is devoted to keeping the traditional winemaking process, however by constantly monitoring her vineyards she is always one step ahead in looking into the future.
Dora Forsoni and Patrizia Castiglioni, of Sanguineto Winery also have their own personalised way of maintaining their land. They are two exciting examples of what happens when female farmers focus on combining opulent and natural formulas to winemaking. Dora constantly applies all of her farming principles which she learned from her late father in the 60s and 70s. This method really comes into play when we think about bio wines. It is first really important that the farmers have a good grasp on what is good and bad for each plant and in this case, the vines. Their wine is a pure joy and a quintessential expression of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano in all of its power, elegance and truthfulness.
With traditions, also comes new generations, to follow them or to enhance them. In this case, we can meet Francesca Vallone of Terre Nere in Montalcino. Francesca is a young female entrepreneur, mother of two, and also runs her family's boutique winery. Francesca really does it all, from leading Terre Nere to ensure it follows the principles of organic farming within the vineyard and cellar, to working within the production of the cellar, with sales and marketing. Her motto can be perfect to describe her as well as the winery, “What would life be if we didn’t have the courage to take risks?”.
Another young and successful female entrepreneur is, Camilla Rossi Chauvenet of Massimago in Verona. Camilla has made an exceptional mark on Massimago. This Organic Winery has been cultivating grapes since the second half of the nineteenth century! Thanks to Camillas' vision and innovation, she has managed to keep up with the old tradition while bringing evolution to the wines. Camilla believes that it is nature whom we work for and for this, there can not be a rush on production, “nature is slow and unstoppable”.
This iconic list could not be complete without discussing the legendary Donatella Cinelli Colombini. Donatella’s Grandfather was a founder of the Consorzio del Brunello. She had grown up surrounded in the vineyards of Montalcino but had grown into carving a place for women working within the wine industry. Currently, she owns two wineries, in Trequanda and Montalcino. Thirty-nine acres of Montalcino is dedicated to the beloved Sangiovese grape. Donatella’s wine offers an undeniable distinctiveness and elegance within each bottle.
As for the next time you are daydreaming of the hills brimming with vineyards and the olive groves below the sun, have ready with you a proud bottle of a female winemaker that will immediately transport you directly to Italy.