Years ago, during a dinner in Montalcino, I overheard winemaker Donatella Cinelli Colombini tell the story of her winery. When she started producing her own Brunello wine in 1998, she wanted to hire a young cellar master. So she got in touch with the University of Siena to ask whether there were any graduates looking for a job. And the answer was: No, unfortunately they have all been snapped up by other estates.

Well, this was not entirely true: there happened to be, at that time, several female graduates who were in quest of jobs, but nobody would bother to mention them, as Tuscan wineries were only interested in hiring male staff.

As soon as she got wind of this, Donatella decided that it was high time things changed. She affixed the words Prime Donne (First Women) to the name of her estate, Casato, and would manage to prove to the world, soon afterwards, that excellent first-class wines could also be produced by women.

A few weeks ago, in the lovely thermal town of Bagno Vignoni, I walked into a handicraft store to have a look around. While chatting with the lady who was pulling out for me beautiful linen table cloths, I found out, to my great surprise, that this little Aladdin’s cave was another brain-child of Donatella! – who had opened the first Toscana Lovers store in Siena some years before. And her selection of Tuscan linens, hand-made ceramics and traditional Scarperia knives were such a success that she went on to set up two more stores in Cortona and Bagno Vignoni…


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