Quite often one hears about ladies who have conquered age-old prejudices in order to become extraordinary winemakers or even vintners themselves. These women in wine are truly making major changes, turning the Old World’s traditionalist system on its head, just by pushing themselves to become true masters in their field. Majority of women winemakers know that females must be better at their jobs or do more than men in order to be viewed as equal.
For support, some have joined specialist women’s networks, such as Le Donne del Vino (The Women Of Wine), which was established in Florence in 1988. Recently, two of Italy’s finest women in wine — Clara Gentili of Fattoria Le Pupille and Luisa Rocca of Bruno Rocca — was selected for a special Le Donne del Vino winemakers dinner right here in Singapore to promote their wines and wineries. Gentili and Rocca along with a third woman in wine (Tiliana Begali of Begali Lorenzo) picked their favourite vintages to be paired with treasured family recipes, released from their own family archives, prepared by Botanico’s head chef Sujatha Asokan alongside Singapore-based Italian chef Charlotte D’Isidoro.
We raise a glass to these wonder women in wine, as they share with us about their tireless journeys so far — from the good, the bad to the ugly.
Clara Gentili, winemaker at Fattoria Le Pupille
Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like?
I grew up in Maremma, a land of great wine, perfect for growing both indigenous and international varieties. I moved here with my mother [Elisabetta Geppetti, arguably Italy’s greatest and most passionate woman winemaker] when I was 3 years old. Even if I spent my whole childhood here, I travelled a lot with my parents — I really thank them for that. My mother often took me with her on her business trips. My father and I did some wonderful travelling together too. I also spent a lot of time in the UK as my father lives between Italy and London. So I grew up in Maremma, but also around the world.
Tell us more about your relationship with your mother and how it played into your role now at Fattoria Le Pupille.
It’s more than a mother-daughter relationship. It’s like we totally understand each other. I’ve always admired her for the great things she did with the winery [taking over and managing it when my grandfather died] but even more for the beautiful family she has built. I have three sisters and one brother.
I think that having a good relationship with your parents is absolutely essential if you want to work with them, so of course this had a very strong influence on my decision to join the winery. There must be respect, trust, comprehension and freedom. I decided to start working with her when I was 20 years old and now I am 27.
Fattoria Le Pupille is a family winery so I always knew that if I joined the company, it would become my responsibility and my future. So far, there isn’t a next-gen lineage. I am the eldest and none of my siblings and I have kids yet. My brother is studying winemaking and he’s helping us a lot when he has some free time. He is already part of the company and I hope that he will soon be part of it 100 percent. That’s probably why I also feel very “relaxed” about leading the winery one day. As we say in Italy, “l’unione fa la forza” [“unity is strength”].
What are some of the challenges that come with being a woman winemaker?
Honestly, I never had many problems with being a woman winemaker. I had more challenges in being a “young” woman winemaker because some people think that being young means not knowing what you are doing and saying, so at the beginning it was a little bit frustrating.
Describe yourself in three words.
Curious, stubborn but always positive.
You’ve said before that wine, nature and earth are some of the things you love most. Please elaborate on these three areas, and how they help you to live a fulfilled life.
Wine, because it’s part of my life and it’s something that often inspires interesting conversations which is something I love.
Nature, because it helps me to reconnect with myself and find my inner peace which, sometimes, I really need considering I am always surrounded by people.
Earth, because it satisfies my curiosity and it helps me keep my eyes and mind open, learning new cultures and traditions, and making new experiences.
Luisa Rocca, export manager at Bruno Rocca
What is your greatest professional achievement?
I’m the export manager of the family estate and am in charge of all the markets around the world. This is a great achievement, considering that I’m dealing with two alpha males – my dad Bruno [the eponymous wine producer] and my brother Francesco [who works primarily in the vineyard].
What are some of the challenges faced by women in wine?
Working in a family estate is a great opportunity, but at the same time, it’s a daily challenge. My dad — and the generations of winemakers born in that period — made a revolution of winemaking at that time; and we are the evolution. I grow up in the vineyard helping my parents in what is still today a passion, I breathed their love for this job since my first day of life. I couldn’t pick any other career in my life. I don’t consider it as a job but more as a lifestyle. My dad Bruno and my brother Francesco love finely balanced wines with structure, and elegance. [Thankfully], this style fits perfectly with my own palate.
Is there a future for wine made by women? Is this an angle the trade could tap into and push for?
Yes! If you look at Langhe in Piedmont [where Bruno Rocca is from], we can boast quite a few extraordinary women who run their own winery and make wines that are recognised all over the world.