The wine business is a family affair for Italian mothers and daughters

There is a renaissance in the world of Italian wine, and women are leading the way. According to a Wine Intelligence Study, women represent 55% of regular wine consumers in the country. But in addition to their purchasing power, they are also progressing as professionals in the wine industry. Although only 10 percent of women are involved in production and in the vineyards, according to a joint study conducted by the University of Siena, Donne del Vino and Unione Italiana Vini, their increased importance and power in the industry is undeniable.

Previous generations who kicked down the cellar door not only paved the way for all women, but many of their daughters who were inspired to follow in their footsteps. While Italy doesn’t have a monopoly on mother-daughter winemaking teams, it does have some of the most visible and intriguing partnerships. These four teams of multi-generational winemakers prove that grapes don’t fall far from the vine in Italy.

Anna and Valentina Abbona

Marchesi di Barolo, Piedmont

Credit: Marchesi di Barolo

“Our winery was born from a wonderful woman,” says Valentina Abbona, export and marketing manager and sixth-generation winemaker at Marchesi di Barolo, her family’s famous winery in Piedmont. When French noblewoman Juliette Colbert de Maulévrier married Marquis Carlo Tancredi Falletti and moved to Piedmont, she didn’t spend her days eating sweets. “She immediately saw the potential of the grapes growing in Barolo,” says Valentina. “It was his vision and intuitive understanding of the land that gave rise to what is now considered the king of wines and, unsurprisingly, the wine of kings.”

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With a history of over 150 years, much of the winery’s modern success is attributed to Valentina’s parents, Anna and Ernesto Abbona. “I have always dreamed that one day my children could continue what my husband and I have worked on with so much passion but also dedication, with new energy and a fresher approach. And now I couldn’t be prouder,” says Anna. In his view, the wine industry has moved from an exclusive club dominated by a few experts to a more open and inclusive club.

Valentina agrees. “The world of wine has changed significantly over the past few years, it’s much less male-dominated,” she says. “Many more women are venturing into the field and establishing themselves as real experts. Where wine and life intertwine, the women are there – balancing daily work with family life while building a legacy for future generations.

Angiolina “Angela” Piotti Velenosi and Marianna Velenosi

Velenosi Vini, Marche

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Founded in 1984, Velenosi Vini is a young winery with Italian standards. Yet thanks to the determination and expertise of owner Angiolina “Angela” Piotto Velenosi, her award-winning Marche wines are now available worldwide. But it was not an easy road. “When I started my career, I was in a macho, shameless world. I had to fight to gain a respectable position, with a lot of sacrifices,” she says. While some challenges remain, Angela is proud for leading the way and believes that “everything is possible for women who want to prove their worth”.

Her daughter Marianna works in the role of Marketing Manager and credits Angela’s hard work with contributing to a more welcoming and fair Italian wine industry. “I think today there are no limits for women in wine. Forty years ago, when my mother started, that was not the case,” she says. Marianna is not only encouraged by the growing number of women working in all aspects of the wine industry; it also boasts of their purchasing power. “Today in Italy, wine consumers are predominantly women – the number of women has exceeded the number of men when it comes to regular wine consumption,” she says.

The Velenosi family aims to provide wine to these consumers for many generations to come. For Angela, seeing her daughter and son play important roles in the family business doesn’t just warm her heart. “My children joining the company mean continuity and therefore the future,” she says.

Elena, Julia and Karoline Walch

Cantina Elena Walch, South Tyrol

Elena, Julia and Karoline Walch are a mother-daughter wine team in Italy
Credit: Cantina Elena Walch

Born in Milan and trained as an architect, Elena Walch’s career plans hadn’t included achieving global recognition for her elegant, terroir-focused wines from Alto Adige. But when Warner Walch hired Elena in the 1980s to restore her family’s 17th-century Ringberg Castle, not only did she land a prestigious project, but she and Walch fell in love and married. Elena also fell in love with the estate’s vineyards and cellars. Describing herself as a “total stranger to the world of wine”, she relished the challenge “to create a wine with a particular identity closely linked to the vineyards and the terroir from which it came”. That was 35 years ago, and not only did Elena’s dream come true, but today her daughters Julia and Karoline run the business.

Karoline never doubted that wine was her destiny. “My room was right above the barrel room, so I got used to the smell of wine early on, and one thing was for sure, I never wanted to miss it,” she says. “Therefore, I studied what I would need later: wine and business in Austria and Australia.” Karoline also credits her mother for her early passion and says she was told from an early age: “Be passionate about what you do, and if you have an idea and are convinced of it, then do it and beat it. you for that.”

Elena’s daughters’ commitment to sustainability has encouraged her to make it a core value for the field – and she says it’s not the only thing she’s learned from her children. “I admit that I still have something to learn from them, it’s how they are organized and keep their composure,” she says.

When asked what it was like to work with her mother and sister, Julia replied, “The good thing about working with my mother and my sister is that we share the same values ​​and goals. As for the challenges? “Sometimes you know each other too well!”

Giovanna Stianti Mascheroni & Federica Mascheroni Stianti

Volpaia Castle, Tuscany

Giovanna Stianti Mascheroni & Federica Mascheroni Stianti are a mother-daughter wine team in Italy
Credit: Volpaia Castle

When it comes to wedding favors, a winery is hard to beat. Giovanna Stianti Mascheroni, owner of the Castello di Volpaia in Chianti Classico, received such an extraordinary treasure from her father 50 years ago. More than just real estate, Volpaia became an integral part of her life, and she passed that same passion on to her daughter Federica. “I always dreamed of giving continuity to a place that we all loved and where we spent our best years,” she says. “Federica has given me the greatest gift by joining me in the work of our family.”

Federica’s original career plans did not include Volpaia. “At the beginning, I was not ready to work with my family. I followed my passion for art and became a restorer,” she says. “But now I feel like I’m still in the realm of art, because working with wine is art.” Although Federica’s main responsibility is to manage the winery’s exports and sales, she says the nature of a family business requires a willingness to take on multiple roles – a fact her mother didn’t miss.

“Federica is fantastic and she keeps us going,” says Giovanna. “She is always ready to update things that will make us better. She works very hard on our social and digital side of things. These days, she has become the mother who teaches everything.

Both women are optimistic about the future of Italian women in the wine industry. Giovanna praises the “increased equality between men and women” she has witnessed. Meanwhile, Federica looks forward to the day when gender will be less relevant. “Hopefully soon, we won’t have to think about who’s a woman or who’s a man in this industry, and we can all grow in our careers based on our valuable contributions,” she says. “We are at a historic moment where everything, including gender, is more fluid, and we have to give up thinking so much in terms of gender.”

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