The prima donna of Italian wine-making Beth Hancock | Posted: 20 April 2018
Vines stripe the slopes around Montalcino in Tuscany
Montalcino in Tuscany is surrounded by vineyards
Montalcino is a charming village on the quiet side of Tuscany

What makes Il Casato Prime Donne different from other Tuscan vineyards?

It has all the components – vines, cellars, oak barrels – that you’d expect. It adheres to the rules governing DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata Garantita) status when making its Rosso and Brunello di Montalcino wines. Its bottles – all of which feature a motif of a dove in flight – do not break the mould either. But if you know any Italian, its name will give you a clue.

It is, in fact, staffed entirely by women. (Prime donne is the plural of prima donna.)

It wasn’t the original intention, but when Donatella Cinelli Colombini discovered that female students of the school of oenology in nearby Siena were struggling to find jobs, despite their male counterparts being in high demand, she made a conscious decision to employ only women in her new venture.

Related Holidays & Further Information

Il Casato Prime Donne

Located on the edge of the hill-top town of Montalcino, south of Siena, the vineyard welcomes visitors, offering a range of tours. Two Inntravel holidays pass close by (see below).

More about Il Casato Prime Donne >

Cantine Aperte

Open Cellars Day is an annual event held on the last Sunday in May, when member vineyards across the whole of Italy open their doors to the public.

More about Cantine Aperte >

The Essence of Tuscany

This walking holiday meanders past olive groves, vineyards, stands of cypresses, and fields of sunflowers.

More details >

Tuscany on Two Wheels

Visit both Siena and San Gimignano on this discovery of Tuscany by bike.

More details >

Two decades later, Il Casato Prime Donne continues to be Italy’s only all-women vineyard, a female bastion in what is still very much a man’s world. The awards that its wines have won over the years prove that it is getting things right.

Addressing the gender imbalance in wine-making has not been Cinelli Colombini’s only pioneering step. She has also led the way in combining wine with another of Tuscany’s most important industries, creating the Movimento del Turismo del Vino and coming up with the idea of Cantine Aperte (Open Cellars Day) to further promote wine tourism.

As you would expect, the guided visits of Il Casato Prime Donne go beyond your normal cellar tour. On the ‘standard’ visit, your guide talks not only about the wines and the wine-making process, but also about the frescoes between the wine barrels which depict scenes from Montalcino’s history and the birth of Brunello, while the musical tour features a different piece of music for each wine that you taste.

On top of that, there is also a trail through the 16-hectare estate dotted with works of contemporary art and quotes from inspirational Italian women.

I raise my glass to them. Cincin!

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