By Nadine Guarrera
When we learned that this year’s International Women’s Day theme was “Make It Happen,” I knew we had to shine a light on the women in wine here on Etna.
International Women’s Dayoccurs on March 8 of every year and celebrates women in general in addition to the economic, political and social achievements of women – past, present, and future. More than 60 countries celebrate International Women’s Day as an official holiday. It Italy, we celebrateFesta della Donna (La Giornata internazionale della donna).
The women who work in Mount Etna’s wine industry make it happen every day. Whether its pruning the vines, making the wines, developing marketing strategies, negotiating local and international business accounts, or entertaining visitors, they do whatever they can to grow their businesses and share their brands, all while balancing modern life on Europe’s largest, most-active volcano.
The wine industry is not a business for the faint of heart. Most people enter the business because of a passion, or an attachment to the land. The women of Etna’s wine community are resourceful, insightful, supportive, strong, and focused, and we are excited to share some of their stories with you here.
We continue our week-long series with Valeria Franco, the “Jill of all trades” at Vini Scirto, a micro-boutique winery focused on Carricante and old-vine Nerello Mascalese.
The winery’s vineyards have been worked for three generations, first producing vino sfuso (bulk wine) for the local market. Now under the stewardship of Valeria Franco and Giuseppe Scirto, the new line of bottled wines are wowing wine lovers and journalists in the local and international market.
Whether Valeria is working in the vineyards or promoting the brand, her focus is never far the north slope of Etna.
In the interview below, find out how love led this young winemaker to an unexpected future on the volcano Etna.
Etna Wine School [EWS]: Was there a defining “ah-ha” moment that drew you to wine?
Valeria Franco [VF]: I can’t say that there was a particular moment. It was a series of events that made Giuseppe and I want to change to our lives, to do something that would make us happy.
EWS: What is it the wine that makes you happy?
VF: It makes me happy that the wine can communicate something to us, with every sip, anyone might be able to imagine us in the vineyard, working the vines, or collecting the grapes at harvest, or working in the wine cellar.
EWS: What prompted you to choose a career in winemaking on a volcano? In other words, how did you get here / now?
VF: It was a decision Giuseppe, my fiancée, made first and I was immediately ready and very happy to follow him. We were driven by our love of the land and the memories that bind us to it. Of course, we were born at the foot of the “Mountain” and we have grown up knowing these places where there is a millennia of farming traditions. People have always owned vineyards and the harvest has always been considered a great celebration to share with family and friends. It was a very natural choice [to choose winemaking], though I was almost “obligated” to continue this tradition.
EWS: Do you think that women have made inroads in what is traditionally a profession dominated by men? He has the attitude towards women in the wine industry changed since you started?
VF: I think that women can offer something extra in this world [of wine], and make a business more complete. Naturally something has changed in recent years regarding the industry’s attitude towards women. Now the world of wine is more balanced.
EWS: As a woman of the wine profession, do you prefer being perceived as a wine professional or you do you like being a female in the wine profession?
VF: I like being considered a “winemaker,” as someone who works the land with love and passion, and with a great curiosity.
EWS: Who do you get advice from the purchase of wine?
VF: I am curious about the story behind every bottle of wine. I like to taste a little bit of everything I can because it’s a way to discover new things, but usually I choose a wine based on my personal taste.
EWS: Who do you admire and who would you have dinner with?
VF: I admire many people in this world. There isn’t just one person in particular that I would like to have dinner with. It would be nice to sit at a table with other winemakers to exchange views and share experiences.
EWS: What are the personal qualities that you have benefited most in your career?
VF: Career is a big word. Surely, the things that have helped me the most are my willpower and stubbornness, but also and especially Giuseppe.
EWS: Which wine (in your portfolio) is the most exclusive?
VF: We produce two wines: an Etna Rosso DOC that we’ve named A’Culonna – made from old vines of Nerellos Mascalese – and an IGT White Carricante named Don Pippinu. There is not one more exclusive because each vintage has its own unique qualities and this is how the wines differ the most.
EWS: How do you balance your life between home and work? How does your job as a professional wine affect the day-to-day life?
VF: It is not that difficult. We work for ourselves and we do all the work ourselves. In the morning we work in the vineyard and in the afternoon we take care of the rest.
EWS: What are your future plans? What you have left to achieve? What do you still want to do with wine?
VF: We hope that the future holds good things. Right now, we are busy growing our business, acquiring more land, and above all, building a new winery.
EWS: What advice do you have for a young woman starting in the profession of wine?
VF: Even if it seems difficult to pursue a goal, do not give up.
EWS: If you were not doing this, what you want to do instead?
VF: Before I got involved in winemaking, my dream was to work for a publishing house abroad. I was studying foreign languages and literature. But to tell the truth, since I started to work the land and make wine I’ve realized that this may be exactly what I wanted to do. I am a very dynamic person. Who knows, maybe one day I might be able to combine the two!