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Winemaking in Italy has predominately been a male-dominated industry. Though, according to Donatella Cinelli Colombi, it doesn’t have to be. Since her family’s land was restored back to their ownership in 1919, it has been passed down from mother to daughter for three generations. After inheriting land from her mother in the 90s, Donatella set out to continue her family’s legacy as a winemaker. In doing so, Donatella became the proud owner of Italy’s first women-only winery. Casato Prime Donne continually seeks harmony between tradition and innovation in everything from their winemaking, business practices, to the wine tasting process.
Casato Prime Donne
Località Casato, 17, Montalcino
Women Only Wine Making –
At the start of Donatella’s winemaking endeavors, she sought out a female student from Siena’s school of enology. She was provided a wide selection of highly capable, female wine technicians, since “no important winery would hire them.” This apparent issue of the winemaking industry’s gender gap was just the beginning. Moving forward, Donatella set out to hire only women for the entirety of her winemaking. Casato Prime Donne was, of course, the first vineyard in Italy to do so. To emphasize the importance of women’s equality both in the wine industry and beyond, she has spearheaded the Prime Donne Project, a four-part initiative.
Prime Donne Project includes –
Cantina Casato Prime Donne: an entirely female staffed winery, including the enologist.
Brunello di Montalcino Prime Donne: the first ever long aged red wine made by women, and that is selected by four female wine specialists and super-tasters.
Premio Casato Prime Donne: an international annual award to a female in the journalism or photography field for their exemplary work to provide equal opportunity for women.
Prime Donne Itinerary: The winery’s tasting hall that highlights the work of the winemakers through contemporary art that is integrated as a part of the tasting process.
Reviving a Forgotten Grape –
Donatella is nothing short of a revolutionary, particularly for her perspective on winemaking practices. Montalcino is an incredibly historic, wine producing region, best known for Brunello di Montalcino. Though in 2000, Donatella and her team, revived a nearly forgotten grape, native to the region, Foglia Tonda. Through research and diligent efforts, Casato Prime Donne integrated the Folgia Tonda to create their Cenerentola DOC Orcia wine, a full, smooth red consisting of 65% Sangiovese and 35% Foglia Tonda. The name, Cenerentola, translates to Cinderella, referring to the Orcia as a forgotten sister of the renowned Brunello di Montalcino and Nobile di Montepulciano.
Contemporary Take on Wine Tasting –
Donatella has once again reinvented the wheel. Unlike most wineries standard touring and tasting process, Casato Prime Donne provides a more contemporary tasting style. The experience is completely revamped with the seamless integration of modern art installation throughout the winery to portray the story of Casato Prime Donne and the history of Montalcino. Art installations vary, from the painted wheelbarrows in the vineyard to a projected video and audio exhibit in the cellar. In addition, tastings are done throughout the tour of the property, invoking a more fluid experience.