This Ballerina Left The Stage For A Most Unusual Second Career

From Ballet To Winemaking:

Bringing Art And Finesse To The Cellar

Until I was 21 years old, ballet was my life, with ambitions and a determination to stay on stage. I could have never imagined that my career would turn and rewardingly lead me to a wine cellar.

I became a professional dancer, after many years of training, when I was a teenager and I collaborated with different dance companies based in the city of Florence, Italy. The life of a dancer isn’t always the easiest, it takes a lot of passion as well as sacrifices. While still dancing, I started to study winemaking at university. I found out that the other students were getting together after classes to taste wine, eat good food and spend some time talking about it. Being a dancer meant that I wasn’t allowed to do those things, and my life was so busy that I never had the time to do it anyways. I gradually started to realize that winemaking was becoming more important for me and that I wanted to have more time to share this new interest with other people. It was at that point that I made up my mind and decided to quit my dance career. It wasn’t easy at first, because dance was the only natural thing to me.

Naturally, I had doubts and fears but luckily the wine world came up so interesting that I was confident about my decision, becoming more aware that art can regenerate itself into new disciplines, and can keep on transforming you, if only you are able to listen.

What came after was the beginning of an inspiring new journey, just as complicated and fulfilling as ballet had been. After graduation, I traveled to different countries outside Italy, following harvests across the globe. After a few years, I started to feel the need to go back to Italy, missing its tradition. I started to look for a good opportunity to move back.  I got in contact with Frescobaldi, one of the oldest growing wineries in Italy, and when they offered me to join their team, I took the chance to be part of this amazing company.

Winemaking is a blend of art and science. It takes passion and a good number of hours spent studying but also making attempts, finding new solutions, new ways of expression and harmony.

Lucia Minoggio at Tuscan winery Frescobaldi.

Winemaking is indeed a very practical job, so it is necessary to gain as much experience as possible on the field. I have operated in many different sectors of production throughout the cellar and the lab, to understand what it takes to make wine. I traveled a lot because it proves to be useful to know how in different places people can solve the same problem or reach a good goal in a completely different way compared to the one that you always used. I think it is important to be curious without forgetting the technical knowledge that is at the base of this job.

Frescobaldi has a very long history in the wine world and to me the challenge here is to be able to use my curiosity about what’s new, to blend it in a harmonic way with the tradition. There they gave me the chance to believe that even in the “old wine world” there is the chance for a woman to become a winemaker, even if agriculture is still mostly dominated by men. For this reason, I admire women like my friend Priyanka French – she’s an awesome winemaker who comes from India and works in California- and my mother who were able before me to make their way in this field giving me the passion and the strength to believe that I could do it as well.

I understand that for men who find themselves having a woman as a cellar master for the first time, it isn’t easy. It is something new and different compared to how it used to be for decades before.

It takes time to begin a new adventure and we don’t always choose who our traveling companions will be.

To face the journey as a team gives confidence to everyone, including the person who has to show the way to others. I empowered myself trying to share with my team the reasons why I take my decisions, listening to their suggestions and trying to solve problems quickly.

It is always very important to keep a high level of attention in the cellar, because many things happen at the same time. It can be challenging sometimes to trust your own decisions when you are in a rush and you make them just based on what you can smell or taste. Although working in the countryside means that it is possible to enjoy every day the amazing view of the hillside, the harvest is such a busy time that during those weeks life outside the winery doesn’t exist anymore. In the meantime, it is very satisfactory to taste a glass of wine being able to remember the day when the grapes where picked. During the year the wine evolves, just as one’s tastes and desires do; thus, it is important to develop the ability to understand what it needs and to always take care of every single barrel in the cellar.

Wine puts people together and, realizing that you are the winemaker who made it. It’s a feeling that doesn’t compare to anything else. In my opinion, it is important to keep in mind this feeling to be able to succeed. Similarly, when you are on stage: You are presenting yourself to an audience and all that you want is that audience to be united under the same intense emotion.

Lucia Minoggio

Lucia Minoggio, joined Frescobaldi winery at Nipozzano Estate. Lucia left her ballerina career to pursue winemaking. She gained experience processing cool climate varieties at Saint Claire Family Estate in New Zealand, where she worked the 2013 harvest.

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