Published 3 February 2012
“It is important to drink good wine each day” is a seemingly simple statement promoting quality over quantity, and is unsurprising coming from one of Italy’s most notable produces. But with this, Teresa Lungarotti encapsulates her family’s ethos that has spread further than just their wine business. As well as striving for success in the vineyards and winery, the Lungarottis are pushing for a better environment, to promote art and culture, and to increase the profile of Umbria and Italy.
Now led by sisters Chiara and Teresa, with their mother Maria Grazia, Lungarotti aims “to bring value to the company, but also to the land and culture at the same time.” The patriarch, Giorgio, would have been proud. Teresa told us that he always encouraged them to “look to the future… to search for something more interesting for quality” and there appears to be no stopping these three formidable ladies.
Following her degree in literature and art history at the University of Rome in the 1950s, her mother Maria Grazia worked relentless on cultural projects which first produced the Wine Museum in Torgiano (in 1974) and then a second museum dedicated to the olive in 2000. Even in her 80s she is still the director of the charitable Lungarotti Foundation and has received recognition from the President of Italian Republic for her activities in culture.
So it is little surprise that her daughters are pioneers too. Following an oenology degree from the University of Perugia, Teresa went to the University of Bordeaux where she was the only woman from Italy on the course. Upon her return to Italy in 1979, she immediately started implementing new ideas – they were one of the first wineries in Italy to introduce cold fermentation. Teresa admits that this was not popular at the time: “Imagine a young woman having to say to an old man with great experience, ‘what you have done until now is wrong; do what I want.’… but after tasting the wine they understood.” Echoing her mother’s determination to bring change, Teresa holds many positions in cultural and business associations, and is the founder of the association “Le Donne del Vino” (the women of wine) which promotes female entrepreneurship in the wine industry.
Chiara Lungarotti is now the CEO of the Lungarotti Group which produces nearly three million bottles per year and has 120 staff. Despite the size of production, quality is never sacrificed. Teresa says, “Never be in a hurry… each kind of wine needs its own time… We do not sell wine when it is unbalanced, tough, rude; we give a consumer a wine when it is ready, not before”.
The company pushes technological and environmental boundaries too. In conjunction with the Italian Ministry of Agriculture, they recently started a ground-breaking biomass experiment which aims to produce energy from the waste material of the pruning process. Despite Teresa’s proud declaration that the project “saves money and we take care of the natural environment”, it is clear that the high cost of the project will take many years before they break even on the investment, and cost-saving is merely an added benefit of the project.
It’s heart-warming to see a large wine producer care for their product, care for the environment, and care for their staff and customers in equal measure. They are certainly “Umbrian pioneers” as Jane Hunt MW recently called them, but they are also pivotal to the future of Umbria. The region would certainly be a lot less of a compelling tourist destination without them.
David Lowe visited the Lungarotti Winery as part of the International Wine Tourism Conference 2012
Photos by Andrew Barrow of spittoon.com