Today is International Women’s day or La Festa delle Donne. It has always annoyed me that only one day a year is dedicated to women but nevertheless, I always mark it in some way. It is a perfect day to write about Donatella Cinelli Colombini . Donatella was the second woman that I met in 2005 who worked in the wine business and was part of the organization, Le Donne del Vino.
I met Donatella when I was writing the first piece of my as of yet unfinished opera on wine. I just got a copy of Tom Hyland’s book today so maybe that will push me to write my own. Donatella ran one of the first all female wineries, Casato Prime Donne. She told me in a brief interview in January that she decided to hire all woman when she went looking for a cellar master and they said with chagrin that there were only women left, no one wanted them in the winery. Her 16 hectare winery makes Rosso di Montalcino and Brunello di Montalcino from 16 hectare of Sangiovese grapes. They use natural winemaking, including indigenous yeasts. She vinifies her wines in open vats, a traditional method in Montalcino.
I had the pleasure of meeting her again in January during Benvenuto Brunello in New York. I found her as interesting eight years later as I did that first time in November 2005. She is first and foremost one of the leading women in wine, a fabulous marketing expert, a lover of art and an incredible source of great Brunello. I tried her Prime Donne 2008 Selezione at Benvenuto Brunello in Montalcino last month as well as her Brunello in New York.
I found the Prime Donne 2008 to be deep ruby red in color with notes of
red fruit, wood, oak, rich and primal earth aromas. On the palate, the wine was filled with rich juicy fruit with oaky notes and profound tannins. It needed a long time to open and to come around. Oddly enough it was very harmonious but I found it very masculine which was unexpected. I think I was surprised because Donatella has one so much for women that I thought her wine would be more a feminine version of Brunello. It wasn’t. I think it will appeal to a broad cross section of Brunello drinkers.
Donatella said that 2008 had a rainy winter, a hot summer and a classic traditional harvest in October. She said that the temperature during fermentation was hotter than usual so there was more work needed to control the vintage.
2008 was rated a four star vintage out of five stars. I though the wines from 2008 was very good across the board. I tasted through maybe 80-100 while in Montalcino and another 20 while in New York. My overall sensation was that many of the wines were ready to drink now, which was unexpected. I am not sure if that is a reflection of the vintage, the winemaking, climate change or the selections that I tasted but I think I tasted widely enough to make a generalization about the year. I would have expected them to be ready to drink in a few years, not so immediately. Perhaps this is a sign of what is to come in the future as well as the planet gets warmer. I’d like to try these wines again in a couple of years.
Donatella told me how much the industry has changed since she began and even since we had our talk in 2005. Now, she said, 1/3 of “all aziende agricole” or wineries are run by women. She noted that they generally tend to do better than their male counterparts because women are more flexible and are used to dealing with crisis better. “It is sort of like the difference between having an orchestra director of the symphony and having a jazz orchestra. The latter is more similar to a female rule at a winery, more freedom, more liberty.” she noted. ‘Women are also great consumers of wine today. They are less loyal to one brand and are more adventurous and very well informed about the wines they drink.”
Since I know she is an art lover, she used to be the Assessore alla Cultura in Siena, I asked what artist she thought was comparable to a Brunello, Rembrandt or Velazquez, she replied. I thought her answer was fascinating, two painters that I adore, whose paintings are profound, layered and nuanced, just like her Brunello. Also, both quite masculine painters. Interesting.