Women In Wine Fridays: Ilaria Petitto from Donnachiara (Campania)


I’m reposting this interview I did with Ilaria some years ago. Since this post, we’ve both had children, I’ve seen her often and her wines have exploded in the United States. Next week I am dedicating to wines from Campania so starting off with Ilaria seems perfect.

I met Ilaria about eight years ago at an event in NYC and have seen her numerous times throughout the years as she is always traveling and promoting her wines. I was able to visit her winery this year for the first time during Campania Stories, an event that takes place in the region. It was fantastic. As always, Ilaria was lovely and gracious, just like her wines. The above picture was taken at VinoVip2013 in Cortina.

1. How did you get into the wine business?

I’m in the wine business since 2007 when I decided to give up with my career as lawyer. My mother some years before inherited the beautiful farm from the grandmother and she was producing wines.

2. What has been the hardest part of the wine business for you in terms of gender issues, if any?

I do not think that the difficulties were due to gender. When I started there were already many women in wine. Certain generally for a woman is always more difficult to be taken seriously in business. And I’ve always noticed the comments about my physical appearance before than the comments about the quality of the wines we produce. But this is a men’s problem, and it is not related to the wine sector.

3. What trends and changes have you seen since you started? What do you see happening in the next 5-10 years in your sector of the business? In Campania?

What I saw is that: in conjunction with the fact that the markets were becoming increasingly global, in the local market, the small grape growers began to produce wine, thinking that bottling and labeling was enough to become a winery.
This has created some confusion at least in an area such as that of Campania, where these companies have begun to market their products without knowing the right pricing policies and market dynamics. I believe that wine is a very complex field that should be dealt with a lot of preparation and corporate culture and not just having a good product. I believe that in the future if these small improvised realities don’t have real organization perhaps, trying to team together, only a few will survive in global competition. The future in this business is to do research, to increase quality, is sustainability.

4. What is happening in terms of varietals? International varietals?

The trend is definitely to bet on native vines. This is the richness of Italy and now each region is focused on typical variety. Of course the challenge is to introduce these wines to international consumers. It is a long process but I think that this is the future. Today traveling is much easier and everyone is wanting to know an area even from its typical food and wines, this is speeding things up …

5. What wines are truly selling?

I believe that at the international level France is still very strong along with the wines of the new world, Australia and New Zealand, such as Chile or Spain, that in some markets such as Asia, is stronger than Italy. But we are gaining market share in strategic markets such as the US. In short, we never arrive first, but since we do a good product and we are more competitive than the French, then we can carve out a good presence in the international markets.

At the moment, wine that cost very little is selling, and this is a great evil, unfortunately, the wine market is full of speculators, who do not like wine, but believe they can earn a lot around it. Fortunately there are still many companies who work hard and continue to convince the markets that good wine and very low prices cannot coexist. If I have to indicate what varieties, beside the international one, are selling well, I think all the good white wines from Italy, for instance, wines from the North and from the South, such us the white wines from Campania, and the Vermentino di Gallura from Sardinia, which is becoming more popular, or the Lugana from Garda Lake. Than of course all the reds from Piedmont, Tuscany and Veneto….for us with Aglianico and Taurasi is much more difficult everywhere.

6. What do you think about the level of wine education on Campania Wines in general in the US?

Surely the American market is very ahead to other international markets.
Especially in same States, it is easy to find also some very unknown varieties. But there is still a lot of work to do, because the US market is mainly based on sale off the shelf, and I believe that the final consumers know very little about the wines of Campania.

7. Do you think we are still too Tuscany and Piedmont focused?

Of course, but this is normal I think, it is everywhere. Piedmont, Tuscany or the Veneto started making wine before us in a professional manner and especially the wineries there are better organized compare to our territory not to mention the great work that the Regions have done to promote those products compared to the Campania Region.

8. Who is the average wine drinker today?

Wine is no longer a product just for aficionados but has become very popular among young people and among women.

9. Where are women going to be in the industry in the next 10 years?

At the top! I believe that wine is an area where women can really make a difference even at smaller level, in a small company I mean. We have a more professional and serious approach, we are more precise and accustomed to doing things in the proper way. We are consistent, persistent and patient….


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