Wine & Other Stories

Vincenza Folgheretti: Profession winemaker

Written by Piero Pardini

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Credits: © Vincenza Folgheretti Enologist

Vincenza Folgheretti Sicilian oenologist, but Tuscan by adoption, is a reference figure on the Italian wine scene.
Knowledge, professionalism, tenacity are just some of her peculiarities that have allowed her to emerge in a sector, oenology, which, until a few years ago, was only the prerogative of men.
After having made her skills available to important national and international wineries, she found in Tuscany, the ideal place to carry out an important entrepreneurial project that sees her as a protagonist in the first person.
She loves confrontation, which she sees as a valid method of growth, which is why we can often find her, when entrepreneurial commitments allow it, around the world for meetings with colleagues and industry experts.
“She never stops learning” is her mantra.

© Vincenza Folgheretti Enologa

How and when was the passion for wine born?

The challenge was born first, then the passion. We all know that the world of wine is historically dominated by men and even today women winemakers, are far fewer in number.
I remember that I was in my last year at the Higher Agricultural Institute, when I asked a teacher for advice on my future university career. I liked oenology, I had done my final dissertation on the vinification of Marsala. To my question about what and how was the world of wine, he replied: “It is a beautiful sector, it gives a lot of satisfaction from all points of view, too bad you are a woman”. At that point, curiosity turned into a real life challenge. Being a woman couldn’t be a limiting aspect. All this then turned into what, today, is my greatest passion.

© Vincenza Folgheretti Enologa

When did you decide that the oenologist would become your profession?

The day I first visited a winery. I remember we were visiting a company in my native region of Sicily. In the cellar there was the company’s oenologist waiting for us, an enigmatic and unattainable figure for me. I was extremely fascinated, from everything he told us and how he said it. Literally enchanted. And while he was talking I said to myself “this is the job I want to do”.

How important is it for an oenologist to empathize with the people who take care of that vineyard and those hills?

Essential. The oenologist’s task is not to arrive at a company and make wine. The oenologist’s task is, first of all, to understand the territory, the company and, above all, the people who work there, who invest in that project and who take care of those vineyards and those hills. Wine must not be the result of a technique, wine must be the result of great teamwork and to do this it is necessary that there is empathy, trust and collaboration, only in this way can we give personality and identity to the product. Otherwise, we will still get a good result, today’s technique allows it, but it would lack the soul.

© Vincenza Folgheretti Enologa

In the collective imagination of wine lovers, therefore, non-professional, 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 professionals who work in the same sector, each of whom has a well-defined role within the sector.
Starting with the preparation, the paths are completely different. The oenologist, today, to be defined as such, first of all needs a degree in viticulture and oenology, the sommelier prepares his profession through training courses, often at a high level, but does not need a degree to become such.
The oenologist starts from the vineyard, the sommelier from the bottle. Obviously, there is no opposition but complementarity.
Both are able to talk and tell about wine, but ask an oenologist to tell about their wine and how to ask a parent to tell about their child’s life, from when he was born until he became an adult, the sommelier has already known “adult”. The story will certainly be different.

© Vincenza Folgheretti Enologa

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?

It is half truth. Today, the approach to wine has completely changed, both on the part of the producer, and on the part of critics, as well as on the part of the consumer himself.
There was a historical moment in which wine absolutely had to have certain characteristics in order to reach the coveted national and international scores that would then have made it clear, or in any case favored, its placement on the market.
Today, there is a kind of U-turn. It happens more and more often to arrive in companies where the producer tells me “enough with the extremes, I want” my wine “, I want my company to have its own identity” and from there the research and the real work begins vineyard first, then in the cellar, all in function of a single objective, to give identity to the product. Today, wine critics know this and it is they themselves who go in search of identity. The era of homologation is over and consumers are beginning to understand it too, today more and more attentive but, above all, more and more educated on the subject.

© Vincenza Folgheretti Enologa

One of your merits and flaws, professionally speaking.

Always feeling at the starting point, I think it is a great value for an oenologist. We do a job where static does not exist, we always have to deal with someone who never compromises: nature. This forces us to open our minds and always look beyond, especially in a historical moment like the present one, where climate change no longer allows us to set protocols, both in the vineyard and in the cellar.
My flaw? Someone once said, “Choose the job you love and you won’t work a day in your entire life.” I am lucky enough to do it and this is my fault.

About the author

Piero Pardini

Founder and editor of "The Wolf Post", Italian based International digital wine platform.
Freelance Journalist.
Wine critic and Sommelier.
He has also written about sports and technology for some specialized magazines.
Co-author of the authorized biography "Gianni Clerici - The writer, the poet the journalist", Le Lettere, Firenze.

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