3 QUESTIONS ~ III STOP: Stefano Amerighi. Meet Giulia

The day I spent at Azienda Agricola Amerighi in Cortona (AR) with Giulia was simply hilarious! A funny woman with a solid wine background who lived for several years in Australia working in hospitality. The more she gets excited when we talk about Stefano’s wines and his Biodynamic approach, the more I feel we are on the same page for many aspects of life: the relationship between wine and land; the importance of travelling and appreciating other cultures; the love for a rediscovered Italy after the years spent abroad; and a shared vision of the role of women have in wine and hospitality industries.

This is when I start with my 3 questions.

How is Italy approaching to the Biodynamic movement?

In the last 10 years, the biodynamic movement has exploded. Some people do it because it’s trendy, others because of a full awareness of it. This has increased especially after the 70’s when conventional agriculture, which used and abuse chemicals, ruined and contaminated the soils. We were one of the pioneer estates in Cortona to use biodynamic practises in 2001. At the beginning, it was very difficult. Stefano had to face a lot of adversities including the locals who thought he was a FOOL! When you embrace the biodynamic system, you abandon the idea of making a profit by damaging the soil and you actually begin respecting the vine. The biodynamic practice is like homeopathy. At Stefano’s we don’t use chemicals at all. At times, we use copper or sulphur for the most dangerous of diseases but otherwise we only use excrements from our cows to give longevity and vitality to the soils, herbs infusions to make the plant stronger and biodiversity to avoid mono-cultivations that we obtain by planting olive trees. We are also lucky to be quite isolated so we don’t have the risk to be contaminated by neighbours who might practise conventional agriculture.

How did you decide to come and work for Stefano Amerighi?

I left home when I was 19 years old. Being so far from my family for such long time made me appreciate my roots which is eventually why I felt called back to Italy. My experience abroad allowed me to value the passion for life and the love for land which we feel so strongly in this country. I studied at the University of Pisa and became more familiar with the biodynamic approach and when I met Stefano, I fell in love with his wines and his ideology. Working here has completely changed my idea of wine and I feel very fortunate and happy to be a part of it.

How do you feel to be a woman in a men-dominated industry?

Sometimes it’s difficult because you stumble upon a wall of prejudices. The role of the woman is still seen as either housewife or office assistant. Especially when I take part at wine fairs, I’m never seen as the one who actually makes the wine along with Stefano but rather his assistant, his wife or the person who’s pouring the glasses! Luckily this vision is slowly changing and evolving.

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3 QUESTIONS ~ II STOP: Buondonno. Meet Gabriele Buondonno.

With his thick Neapolitan accent, Gabriele is a jolly man full of jokes. I arrive early in the morning at his Agriturismo in Castellina in Chianti and he pours me a glass of his Rosso straight away. All his vineyards are planted in Sangiovese in the Classico area and since 1992 he has introduced new varieties such as Syrah and Merlot. “What do you want to talk about? Pizza Napoletana? Mandolino?”

And here I begin with my 3 questions.

How did you start? When did you decide that you wanted to become a winemaker?

By mistake! Jokes aside, I’m originally from Naples, the passion for wine and the countryside has been there since forever and my wife and I have been having the idea of starting a wine activity for long time. The prices were too expensive in Campania compared to Tuscany so we travelled for almost one year back and forth until we fell in love with this place and we decided to stay. And we immediately started practising biodynamic agriculture.

If you were a Buondonno wine, what wine would you be?

It depends! It changes year over year and it mainly depends on the mood. At the moment I would probably be the latest Rosé I’ve produced, a 50% Syrah and 50% Sangiovese, so perfumed, full of flavours and refreshing at the same time. I love it!

What does it mean to be a small producer?

Well, firstly it means a family-run business: me, my wife and my daughter who is taking care of the farm animals. It also means a better control on the vines and the land, embracing a more craft and niche aspect of the market. Contrary of what you might think, it also means it’s easier to sell wine abroad than in Italy! If you work with a product such as Chianti Classico, renowned all over the world, and rely on distributors, you end up selling many bottles without that much effort. It’s a good thing.

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3 QUESTIONS ~ I STOP: Montesecondo. Meet Silvio Messana.

It's March. I'm meeting Silvio in his beautiful house in the Tuscan countryside, on the outskirts of Florence and he invites me for lunch. "Oggi, spaghetti alle cime di rapa", he says. And we have it with TIN Montesecondo, long maceration Trebbiano.

And here I start with my 3 questions.

How did you start? When did you decide that you wanted to become a winemaker?

I grew up in North Africa, in Tunisia and all I can remember of my childhood are the smells of the winecellar, the must, the vinification. However, at that time I had other projects, I wanted to be a musician. I then moved to the US where I started to work in the wine industry selling wines and there I discovered a world that I didn't know. This experience abroad helped me understand what I didn't want. What style of wine I didn't want to make. The wine that you make is who you are. And this is the great difference between who makes wine to please others and who instead makes wine that reflect their personality. At the beginning of my career I made wines that weren't well understood. 

If you were a Montesecondo wine, what wine would you be?

Can I choose two of them? The TIN and the Montesecondo, the purest of my selection. I don't see treating the vines as merely as a production apparatus but as something that I have to work alongside. It's the vine that dictates, not me. Wine is conviviality, life, cheerfulness.

Why did you choose a toad as logo for Montesecondo wines? 

I'm pleased that you recognised that it's a toad and not a frog! I've always liked toads, they are slow animals but powerful. In Japan and South America they are the symbol of fertility and wealth, also it's an animal that rarely is killed - nobody eats a toad! It's a way for me to find the humour in wine and laugh at it, with it.