We asked ourselves what the female point of view on the world of wine is, what we see and what we dream from the front line of that specific perspective. To do this, we had the honor of interviewing Donatella Cinelli Colombini, President of the Women of Wine Association and a great entrepreneur, in the broadest and most inventive sense of the term.
We are pleased to have interviewed Donatella Cinelli Colombini, to understand together what the point is about the presence of women in the wine world.
1. As young people who based Sommelier Wine Box on the idea that 'culture' is 'culture', we are convinced that it is no coincidence that she is an art historian. What did she major in?
I studied the works of medieval goldsmiths , especially those from Siena. At the time, artists had few tools for transmitting figurative culture: the internet of the Middle Ages consisted of miniatures, ivories, small paintings for personal devotion and enamels. The latter are small metal surfaces chiselled and embossed: they were colored with glass paste and used in chalices, processional crosses or reliquaries. The Sienese were the best of all: they worked for the pope and for the kings. When I created the wine of my dreams, the Brunello IOsonoDonatella, I put a drawing of a ring with my logo in the center on the bottle, as if it were a seal...
2. His choice of wine immediately emerges, which is a return to the origins if we want…
Yes, I was born into a family of producers with a tradition of at least 400 years. At the end of the sixteenth century my ancestors were already paying taxes for the crops on the Casato farm, where I now have my Sangiovese vineyards for Brunello. Having such a long past behind me is an honor and a burden : it almost forced me to work hard to restore the ancient splendor of the two properties that my parents had entrusted to me . It wasn't easy (it would have been easier to choose where and how to invest!), but it was worth it. Maybe from heaven they look at me smiling, and I think they also help me.
3. Women have always played an important role in agriculture, ever since this was a subsistence activity. Later it was thanks to women that many companies survived while men looked for a better future in the city. And from there the first female-led entrepreneurial activities began. What is the situation today?
Women make up 42% of those who work in agriculture and 29% of farms are run by women. These are small businesses, smaller than the national average, and in fact only 21% of the UAA (usable agricultural area) is under female management. But women are very good and therefore these small businesses work better than those of men, to the point that they produce 28% of agricultural GDP . The average performance is very good.
4. The National Association of Women of Wine was founded in 1988: the first 800 members were true pioneers. But why today, more than thirty years later, can we still talk about 'gender' in a production sector?
The gender gap exists , there is no need to have any illusions. In the public sector the salary gap between men and women is 4% but in the private sector it rises to 20% and among freelancers it reaches 38%. Women have fewer careers and accept fewer prospects of professional success in order to have more time for their family.
We have completed an analysis on access to credit carried out by the University of Siena on a sample of Donne del Vino members: for the first time we see that the problem has not been detected. It is a small light at the end of the tunnel because similar studies on female traders and artisans have instead revealed a serious problem of banking resources for female businesses... but we are starting to see the end of the tunnel , at least among the Women of Wine.
5. Do you see positive signs in the new generations?
The signals are many and strong , all over the world. The number of women enrolled in agriculture and oenology faculties is growing, the number of women in sommelier and WSET courses is growing, where they now make up 40%. Now it's about giving these girls greater job and career prospects . This is why the Women of Wine have created the 'FUTURE' project, a portal where female wine businesses offer training opportunities to young people under 30. There is even a partner based in Hong Kong who will tutor 3 future export managers for a year. There are harvest internships in Chile and New Zealand, participation as jurors in the Selection mondo des vins Canada as well as obviously training opportunities in Italy.
6. Here, the promotion of the role of women as entrepreneurs in the world of wine and the growth of wine culture are, in our opinion, the most beautiful aims of your Association. What makes you proud to be its President?
It is having built a team spirit so strong that it goes beyond national borders . Not only do we have very active members everywhere, who help each other and team up to create projects that are impossible to carry out individually , but we have now also created a network with 7 foreign associations, from Australia to Argentina, to Germany...
7. Studies say that companies led by women are on average more open to the public. “Open cellars” is his invention…
Yes: it's the thing I'm most proud of. Having created 'Open Cellars' without money, with the sole force of ideas and persuasion was fantastic. When I started, in 1993, in Italy there were 25 wineries open to the public, today there are 25,000 of which around 8,000 are well equipped for incoming . The awareness of having contributed to changing an entire economic sector and having given development prospects to businesses and entire territories warms my heart.
8. Which, the most incredible wine woman I've ever met?
Incredible no, the ones I've met are all very normal, even the extraordinarily good ones . If I had to make a list it would be very long.
9. As a great entrepreneur, two success factors that 'pink' businesses have in common and two weaknesses, which I imagine exist...
The success factors are the multitasking character and the predisposition to create relationships . Professor Vincenzo Russo, Neuromarketing expert, taught us that men work for objectives and women for relationships: the man makes the sales, the woman creates the market. For Italian wineries it is crucial.
The factors of weakness are the propensity to avoid conflict environments and the very low interest in power . The result is that women lead a third of Italian wineries but make up less than 10% of the boards of directors of wine consortia. They just don't want to go. Instead, they must learn that to have equal professional opportunities and pay with men, one must count more.
Running away from the struggle for power or even from voting and political commitment is wrong.
10. Is it true that young people today return to the land?
Yes, even if they see it in a romantic way, the reality is more difficult.
11. Respect for tradition and eyes on the future, quality production and absolute urgency to act while respecting the environment... What is the biggest challenge facing the world of wine today?
Research must provide us with absolutely eco-compatible products , such as derived from algae, oranges and the like, to combat vine diseases at low cost and with absolute respect for the environment. Otherwise organic or biodynamic cultivation will remain limited to dreamers or high-cost wines. It is necessary to reduce emissions , therefore focusing on electric motors and producing energy with panels, wind power or similar.
Finally there is the problem of water , which is little and is wasted too much. This is the biggest and most difficult challenge.
12. And finally let us dream: your favorite wine?
I should say Brunello Prime Donne which is the company's flagship and the liquid representation of the project on equal opportunities in winemaking. In reality, what makes my heart beat is Cenerentola DOC Orcia , an almost unknown denomination, born in 2000 between the territories of two more famous and richer half-sisters: Brunello and Vino Nobile. A native vine abandoned for a century - the Foglia tonda - and the challenge to its two stepsisters, precisely; and then a job made of trials, errors, courage and talent . All this has led us to obtain scores of 93/100 and international success. Now on Cinderella's label there is a crown because she literally caught her prince... but what an adventure!
I recently started the meeting between the producers of Foglia tonda from all over Tuscany and now we can say that it is a trendy grape variety. This is also a success!