What or who inspired you to become a winemaker?
I fell into wine making, just like I fell in love with Italy. The project was at its heart born out of a need to balance my busy life in London when I was at Goldman Sachs in the late 90’s. My husband to be, Manfredo, took me to Tuscany and it felt like heaven on earth. It took another 10 years and a lot of hard work in the City to have the courage to leave my job and devote myself full time to running and building out the Conti di San Bonifacio estate in Tuscany. Working in nature, creating organic wines and olive oils, feels like I’ve finally aligned passion and purpose.
What’s your favourite part of the job?
Surprisingly, owning a Winery and a Wine Hotel is actually many jobs in one. Every day of the week is different. I can be immersed in vineyard and cantina, working closely with our oenologists or I’m in the office running the business. I love the contrast and the freedom to choose who I work with. We have a great team of people working at CDSB. They inspire me!
What’s the hardest part?
Without hesitation, I would say the heavy administrative burden imposed on businesses here in Italy. To an English woman used to working in the UK, the barriers to success the Italians impose on themselves are mind-boggling. Bottom line our internal standards are exacting and exceed the requirements from the state. As a result on top of everything we do to operate at the highest level there is a constant and confusing matrix of permissions, standards, taxes and regulations which we spend a huge amount of time trying to navigate.
What’s your go-to drink at the end of a long day?
Well, that depends on the season. When I need a glass of pure, velvet comfort, I’ll open a bottle of our Sustinet IGT, our Super Tuscan Syrah. During our hot, Italian Summers, I’m reaching for a chilled glass of the CDSB Monteregio DOC. It’s a special example of the indigenous Sangiovese we’ve lovingly aged in second year oak. I love it on ice.
If you could give your younger self advice when starting out as a winemaker, what would it be?
I would tell her to be more confident in herself. When you start out you believe everyone knows better than you and you’re just inundated with advice, particularly as a young woman. But my intuition and common sense have served me very well and I’ve learnt to follow my heart and choose the advice I take very carefully.
What has been your greatest winemaking mistake?
Gosh, one makes mistakes all of the time. Wine making has hugely unpredictable variables which catch the best of us out-the weather is just one of them. But the important thing is that I learn from what happens and teach my team to do the same. Actually, we wouldn’t have had the success we’ve experienced without failing a few times. As a team we are constantly renovating processes to eliminate errors and allow the wines to more fully reflect our terroir year after year.
What wine-related achievement are you most proud of and why?
It has to be that we took on this beautiful estate in an untouched part of Tuscany and created a certified organic Winery and Retreat. My passion is to be ethical and sustainable in the way we care for the land and create these gorgeous wines. When we won the Gold Medal for the 2008 Sustinet IGT and then second-best Syrah in the world I knew our holistic and disciplined approach had captured the essence of this Tuscan soil. Pure magic!
Who is your inspiration in the wine world today?
We get so much inspiration from organic wineries and sustainable farming practices the world over. We love reaching out beyond Italy to check out what others are doing at the forefront of making clean wines full of character. It’s so cool to see how others are getting the word out there to their audiences. We try to be humble-there’s always so much you can learn.
Where would your fantasy vineyard be?
Exactly where it is. We wouldn’t want to change a thing about our location. There is nothing like checking in to our Wine and Wellness Retreat on the estate, sitting on the White Terrace while sipping a glass as your eyes stretch across our vineyards out to the horizon. It’s a place in a million. Just read the reviews!
If you weren’t a winemaker, what would you be doing and why?
I’m also an environmentalist. Everything we do works to the same philosophy, from our olive groves and extra virgin olive oils to the Kitchen Garden which serves the Maremmana Restaurant on property. At its roots, great wine is all about caretaking the land for future generations. I’m fascinated by what else we can grow here on the estate and we’re currently working on a Food Forest project with an inspirational group of women. Connecting with others outside of the wine world, which can be very privileged and male, in this complimentary and symbiotic way feels really fresh and accessible.
Which wine (grape/style) do you find it impossible to get along with?
Sauvignon Blanc-just can’t stand it.
How has your taste in wine changed over your career?
Wine is a journey. When you’re young and just starting out, you’re exploring and experimenting. I suppose as I get older and drink a little less, any glass needs to be pretty great. So, that could be a Conti di San Bonifacio Super Tuscan or one of my husband’s French Bordeaux from his cellar. But as we know a great wine can come in different guises so I try to keep an open mind and taste as many as I can.