SABRINA TEDESCHI – Az. Agricola Fratelli Tedeschi (Венето)
Every day 81-year-old Lorenzo Tedeschi still opens and closes the family winery in Valpolicella according to his daughter Sabrina who works with elder sister Antonietta and younger brother Riccardo. The three effectively run the business with their father in the background, happy to give advice. The Tedeschi family has been involved in wine since 1630, but it was Lorenzo who took the business beyond the Veneto in the 1960s. Today exports account for 85% of the 500,000 bottle production.
“All of us played in the winery and smelt the fermentation when we were children, and my father always talked to us about the business – he shared everything,” says Sabrina who entered the firm in 2000. Having trained as a food technologist and taught winemaking for ten years, she claims there was never any pressure to join Tedeschi.
Today she looks after marketing and shares exports with Riccardo, the winemaker, while Antonietta takes care of finance and domestic sales. “With the next generation there will be seven – five of them women – so the future’s feminine,” she says with a grin, before adding quickly: “What makes the difference is not male or female, but passion.”
DARIA GAROFOLI – Casa Vinicola Gioacchino Garofoli (Марке)
Vini Garofoli is the oldest producer in the Marche, making Verdicchio and supplying UK supermarket giant Tesco with its own-label version for a near, record-breaking 25 years. Its secret weapon is Daria Garofoli who remained behind the scenes for 33 years as a full- time mum, English teacher and wife to chairman Gianfranco Garofoli. “When I retired in 2001, I asked him if I could have something to do,” she explains. “He offered me two afternoons a week and said, ‘Don’t imagine, you’ll become export manager because you’ve got to stay here with me!’”
The irrepressible Daria Garofoli force of nature Daria had other plans. Within three months Daria Garofoli had flown the nest to promote the company’s wines abroad, averaging 100 days a year on the road. At the same time she nurtured her son, Gianluca (33) to eventually take over as export manager. She says he shares a similar personality and she now feels safe with him handling big projects on his own. Meanwhile, Gianfranco Garofoli prefers to stay at home where he is also president of the Verdicchio producers association. This is probably just as well for beyond the Marche, Gianfranco might simply be known as: “husband of the more famous Daria”.
JOSE RALLO – Donnafugata (Сицилия)
Before the name was immortalised by Lampedusa in The Leopard, Donnafugata was the Bourbon Queen who fled Naples for Sicily to escape Napoleon’s troops. Loosely translated as “woman on the run”, José Rallo of the eponymous Sicilian wine sees it differently. “For me it’s a woman looking forward who wants to escape and change.” In her eyes that defines her mother Gabriella, a teacher married to a wine dynasty from Marsala, who inherited an estate of her own and abruptly quit her job. “I saw my mother change and become a real entrepreneur,” says José, who was 11 at the time. Ten years later her parents launched Donnafugata together.
Fleeing Sicily to study economics before working for a US management consultant, José spent quite a few years “on the run” before falling in love with a Sicilian. This dragged her home and in 1990 she asked her father if she could join in. He was delighted, but made her start at the bottom to test her commitment. She describes him as “the world’s biggest feminist”, and yet “a very rational man” who can only be won over through reasoned debate. Today José and her winemaking brother Antonio are effectively in charge though her parents are still heavily involved. José also does a lot to promote Sicilian culture through art and music.
GAIA GAJA – Gaja (Пьемонт)
“I don’t have a title on my business card, so it’s difficult to explain. I do everything,” says Gaia Gaja, daughter of Angelo Gaja – Italy’s cult wine superstar, or “the mad man of Barbaresco” as Jancis Robinson MW once called him.
“My father is 84, but he’s not stepping back, thank God,” says Gaia who joined the business ten years ago. “He’s very Gaia Gaja wise and understands that all the decisions we take are my decisions because they won’t affect the wines for five or six years.” With her winemaking younger sister, Roseanna, she’ll tell him what they’re going to do. “Sometimes he’s not so happy, but he always says ‘OK, do it’.”
It was the sense of family that inspired Gaia at first, the passion for the wines came later. “The thing I love is to think that what I’m doing is not only my passion,” she explains, “but it was the project of my father and the dream of my grandfather. Hopefully, in another 30 years, it will continue within the family.”
She says the aim is to continue making the best wines in Barbaresco, and try and do the same in Montalcino and Bolgheri. If and when that goal is reached, then maybe another region will be given the Gaja treatment. “But it will always be in Italy,” says Gaia emphatically.
CHIARA LUNGAROTTI – Cantina Giorgio Lungarotti (Умбрия)
If Chiara Lungarotti had dreams of doing something else in life they didn’t last long, for as she says: “My father (Giorgio Lungarotti) was so smart, he made me love this kind of life since I was a little kid.” In 1979 her elder sister Teresa left to study agronomy in Bordeaux where she was taught by Denis Dubourdieu, and a few years later Chiara followed suit, studying viticulture at Perugia University.
“I started working in the different fields of our estate – the vineyards, the cellar, the hotel… I wanted to understand everything,” she says. It was just as well, for when her father died in 1999 she became CEO. “I was one of the very few women and always the youngest, so I just listened and learnt a lot.” Dubourdieu, who describes her as “a dear friend”, was invited to help replant the family’s vineyards in Torgiano. “I wanted our Rubesco wine to be a great expression of Umbria and to reflect our personality,” Chiara explains. She says she only really began to see the results of the replanting in 2005. Five years earlier she expanded Lungarotti, but not into Sicily or Puglia like so many rivals. “I strongly believe our wines have to be an expression of the territory they’re from, and our territory is Umbria,” she says, “ so I bought a small estate in Montefalco called Turrita.”