‘Winemaking Is the Best Job in the World,’ Says Matilde Poggi

Illustration by Barbara Spurll
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For more than 35 years, Poggi, owner of Le Fraghe, has dedicated herself to making high-quality, delicious Bardolino, the lithe, spicy red from Veneto.

Though her family owned vineyards and her uncle made wine, her father chose another career. But when relatives divided the property in the 1980s, Poggi decided to create her own winery as opposed to selling the grapes.

At a time when large, quantity-driven firms and cooperatives dominated local production, she chose to concentrate on quality and revamped her vineyards to better express the area’s native grapes.

Today, she is one of Italy’s most respected producers, and her elegant, vibrant wines are food friendly and loaded with personality. She is also the president of the Federazione Italiana Vignaioli Indipendenti (or FIVI, the Italian Federation of Independent Winegrowers) and vice president of the Confédération Européenne des Vignerons Indépendants (or CEVI, the European Confederation of Independent Winegrowers).

“It has always taken me some time to recognize and be proud of my personal achievements and successes.” –Matilde Poggi

Why did you want to become a winemaker?

Winemaking has been in my family since the 1960s. My father was not personally involved, as he had another job.

Nonetheless, I grew up learning that each season has a particular meaning for vines. Observing the vines, season after season, I was impressed from their spring beginning and their going to rest in fall, followed by a long winter with apparently no life in them. After school, in the afternoons, I liked helping with the harvest.

Finally, when I was 22, with this background, I decided to challenge myself with winemaking, aiming to make wines with my personal imprinting.

What is your proudest achievement?

Wine is a very slow business. So far, I have done 34 harvests, and this means just 34 months of actual winemaking.

It has always taken me some time to recognize and be proud of my personal achievements and successes, and every year has brought some wins as well as some defeats. But, like trekking in the mountains, eventually you reach your goal.

And looking back on the last seven years, I’m finally sure to be on the right path, proud to be considered a reference point in my denomination, Bardolino, one of the oldest appellations in Italy.

What was the most surprising experience or encounter you had as a woman winemaker?

First of all, my dream is to not be considered a woman winemaker, but simply a winemaker. Since the early years of my business and for a long time after, I felt like people did not take me seriously as they did with other colleagues. I needed a lot of energy and confidence to get people to take me seriously. Nowadays it seems much better. I just feel that my business should remain small as I want to check every aspect, even the smallest ones, and delegating to other people doesn’t come easy to me. I guess that this is very feminine.

What is your advice to young people interested in entering the wine business?

Winemaking is the best job in the world. Success is not fast to achieve, so I’d suggest this business to young people only if they are really passionate about wine. Make sure you produce wines you like, with a strong identity, your identity. Wine is a business with long-term investments, and it’s successful only if it brings the identity of the producer. Do not follow trends! Trends change and your vineyard stays for a long time. Make “your wine” and you will, for sure, find a niche that will appreciate it!

Published on February 23, 2020
Topics: Advocacy