Winemaker's Voice

Dora Marchi: Profession winemaker

Dora Marchi: Professione enologo
Written by Piero Pardini

Dora Marchi was born in S. Casciano in Val di Pesa, in the province of Florence. After graduating first in Biology and then in Oenology, she consolidated her university skills in the “field” at the Antinori company, in the heart of Tuscany. After this professional path, which lasted 12 years, she moved to Piedmont where, for over twenty years, she has collaborated with Enosis, a Consultancy and Research Center, projected towards the challenges of the future in the field of oenology.
Currently, she holds the role of Technical Director and Head of the Quality Control Laboratory, with a high profile professional curriculum: university professor at the University of Turin, she is part of the OIV (International Organization of Wine and Vineyard) Oenological Technology Commission, in quality of biological expert and oenologist, just to name a few.
Among the wines, she prefers rosé wines, on which she has carried out numerous researches and experiments. She loves Pinot Noir and indigenous varieties from Italy and the world.

How and when was your passion for wine born?
Always. In my home, as in most families in Tuscany, it was normal to see the bottle of wine (or rather at that time the fiasco) on the table for both lunch and dinner. We learned to know and drink wine as a family. Even as a child I had curiosity and desire to taste it, even if my parents only allowed me to approach the glass with my nose.
After high school, my passion for microbiology and biochemistry led me to choose biology (at the time, there was no degree course in viticulture and enology, born in the mid-90s).
From the first year, I started working at the Antinori company, which was based in my village San Casciano, during the summer holidays and most of the autumn months.
From that moment on, my oenological training began in an institutional and professional way and what until then had been only a love at first sight, has turned into a real passion.

Dora Marchi: Professione enologo

© Dora Marchi

When did you decide that the oenologist would become your profession?
Since I started attending the cellar and the laboratory of the Antinori company, practically from the first year of university. I built my training course at the University according to what my profession would have been.

How important is it for an oenologist to empathize with the people who take care of that vineyard and those hills?
It is crucial. The wine is the result of the vineyard and the territory of origin, of man’s work and passion.

In the collective imagination of wine lovers, therefore, non-professionals, the sommelier is the best known figure within the “wine” chain while the oenologist works “behind the scenes”. How much, according to your experience, are the two figures (if they are), in opposition and how much, on the contrary, are they (if they are) complementary?
They are two completely different figures.
Oenology (from the Greek “οίνος” (wine) and “λόγος” (study) is the science that studies the transformation of grapes into wine, the grape suitable for its production, (microbiology, chemistry and sensorial characteristics ), but also the production process itself, therefore the techniques connected to it.
Therefore the figure of the oenologist is essential together with the producer to design and produce wine. The sommelier is a good taster, but he is not able to follow the processes of transformation of grapes into wine. He is unable to follow the production of the vineyard, the ripening of the grapes, to decide when to harvest, how to make wine, etc.
The sommelier is a professional able to carry out an organoleptic analysis of the drinks in order to evaluate their quality, characteristics, storage potential, especially according to the correct wine-food pairing.
The sommelier, like the oenologist, has an in-depth knowledge of wines, of the production areas and of the wine culture but does not follow the processes of grape maturation, transformation of grapes into wine, refinement, bottling.

Dora Marchi: Professione enologo

© Dora Marchi

How much has your profession changed, more or less positively, compared to its beginnings?
It has changed profoundly for several reasons. But the main reason was that at some point in my professional life someone gave me the key to enology.
All the subjects I had studied and the things I had done up to that moment, thanks to this key, were positioned as in a big puzzle, they started to turn like gears and I began to understand the phenomena that were at the base of oenology, to understand molecules, transformations. What until then was a professional interest has turned into a real passion that stimulated me to study, taste, visit vineyards and cellars and experiment.
Donato Lanati gave me this great gift. I have been collaborating with him for over 25 years. “Enosis” gave me the opportunity to deepen my knowledge, to compare myself with professionals and to experiment, and to study in depth that sphere that is called “acino”.

Pandemic and state of health of the wine sector (Italian and International), what can your current experience tell you?
From a personal point of view, I am grateful to the profession I do which has allowed me in a complicated and difficult period like that of the pandemic to work always and in any case, without moving from “Enosis” and Fubine. It allowed me to deepen some aspects of oenology that, for reasons of space and time, I had not been able to study and analyze completely.
The oenologist, like the cellarman and the winegrower did not stop during the pandemic, on the contrary they were able to use the extra time, which was previously used for travels, meetings and movements in different regions and countries, to study and to develop strategies.
From the general point of view of the wine sector, the pandemic has often led to having to invent different strategies, new ways of promoting and selling wines, new ways of communicating.
It stimulated us to make better, longer-lived wines, to study even better the bond that that wine has with the territory.
I believe we will come out stronger and more capable.
Of course, the pandemic has created numerous problems for the wine sector, most of the companies have suffered losses in turnover. Statistics can be found both nationally and internationally in numerous magazines in the sector and the OIV itself continuously transmits updates.

Dora Marchi: Professione enologo

© Dora Marchi

The winemaker is also a controversial figure, acclaimed by most and criticized by others. You are accused of “creating” wines that must meet the canons of the guides, in short, please everyone. Fantasies, or is there, in some cases, a basis of truth?
I think it depends a lot on the philosophy and professional ethics of each winemaker. When we make local wines, respecting the variety, the vineyard, the territory and the producer, we don’t make wines for the guides or that everyone likes, but we make unique and original wines because nobody has that territory, that vineyard. I believe that, in this way, exceptional wines are also made because they are the maximum expression of that territory.
Then there are wines that make important numbers, which come not from a single vineyard, but from wider territories, I think of Prosecco, Pinot Grigio, in this case the search for quality and pleasantness is fundamental, but it is still important to respect the characteristics of the variety and produce honest and sustainable wines, both from an environmental and a human point of view.
Often, behind these wines there is a lot of research in order to guarantee the consumer quality and consistency.
The fact of producing pleasant wines, however, is not a demerit, because wine is a pleasure and must satisfy the consumer’s taste.

Dora Marchi: Professione enologo

© Dora Marchi

One of your merits and flaws, professionally speaking.
My greatest value is the continuous desire for knowledge. Trying to understand the phenomena, the molecules, in a nutshell, have an accurate preparation in order to better interpret oenology, and put into practice an objective oenology.
My biggest regret is not having enough time to know and taste the different interpretations of the same vine in different territories.
The main flaw is that I cannot taste a wine just for the pure pleasure of it, but the tasting sets in motion the desire to know more and when I drink a wine that I do not know and that I like and am curious about, I take it to the laboratory to study it in depth.

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About the author

Piero Pardini

Da Maggio 2002, giornalista pubblicista.
Coautore del saggio "Gianni Clerici - Lo scrittore, il poeta il giornalista", Le Lettere, Firenze.
Dal 2015, Sommelier AIS (Associazione Italiana Sommelier- Italian Sommelier Association).
Scrive di vino, enogastronomia, sport, tecnologie.
Dal 2016, direttore responsabile di "The Wolf Post", di cui è il fondatore.

Freelance journalist, since May 2002.
Co-author of the essay "Gianni Clerici - The writer, the poet the journalist", Le Lettere, Firenze.
Since 2015, Sommelier AIS (Italian Sommelier Association).
He writes about wine, sport and technologies.
Since 2016, founder and editor-in-chief of "The Wolf Post".