Often when a company reaches its centennial, it places the focus on reminiscing over years gone by. Chiara Soldati does just the opposite. True to her brand’s name La Scolca, which means looking forward, she is doing just that.
Since we first met in February, life has drastically changed. Because COVID-19 has brought Italy to a horrifying standstill, the concept of “looking forward” is now filled with uncertainty. I have modified this article accordingly.
With a joyful gait, Chiara Soldati, owner of La Scolca, moved with grace and confidence through the restaurant where we met. I noticed that she embraced a bottle of her Gavi dei Gavi 100-year edition both tenderly and proudly as though it was her own child. Well, in fact it was. What distinguishes family wineries such as La Scolca from corporate ones, is that the owners are overseeing each step from budbreak to harvest while still managing the international marketing. Chiara, for example, divides her time between managing what happens at home and traveling around the globe to serve as brand ambassador.
Recently, I had two opportunities to listen to Chiara speak about La Scolca. The first was at a private lunch for six at the beautiful La Masseria restaurant in Palm Beach Gardens. The second was at a sold-out South Beach Wine and Food Festival tasting seminar held at the exclusive Eden Roc Hotel in Miami Beach.
Talking to Chiara Then
Q: You have been a “Soldati” or “soldier” of women’s rights for your whole career. As an Italian female winery owner, what were some of your greatest challenges when you began?
A: I started my career 25 years ago. Fortunately, I’ve never experienced any discrimination in this sector. I’ve always received great support from both my male and female colleagues. It shouldn’t matter whether you are male or female–what is important is making great wines that you are passionate about.
Q: Is the wine industry still a Boys’ Club?
A: No, not at all. In our winery, half the employees are women and the department women totally run the department. Today in Italy there are a lot of female winemakers, sommeliers, chefs, and respected female wine journalists.=
Q: What should a young woman who is interested in winemaking do to get involved in the industry?
A: She must have passion for the world of wine and have confidence in herself. There’s more of a balance now. There are some very strong, accomplished women in the wine industry who are well recognized and respected. Women have created their own path in this industry, fueled by their passion.
Talking to Chiara Now
Since we first met, Chiara and I have stayed in touch through social media and WhatsApp. Whether we love, hate, or are somewhere in between about it, social media has now become a lifeline to each other in our own cities and around the world. Digital conferencing and webinars with the reinforcement of social media are how we’re now keeping the business engines running.
Q: What measures have you had to take to protect both production and your employees?
A: The countryside has its natural rhythms and continues even in this difficult moment. Now in the vineyard, it is time for pruning and tying and the first buds are starting to bloom on the plants. We, like every year, carry on all the necessary operations, certainly with all the precautions adopted to guarantee the safety of the employees. Even in the cellar, we follow all the necessary activities such as decanting or pumping over, and we take care of our wine to guarantee our standards of excellence always and in any circumstance.
Q: How are you using digital technology to keep consumers connected with La Scolca?
A: La Scolca will launch the first Smart Digital Wine Tasting: a 30 minute Instagram live led by myself and Manlio Giustiniani, Champagne and Wine Consultant and teacher at the Italian Sommelier Foundation. We will present the new label Soldati La Scolca Classic Method Blanc de Blancs sparkling wine, the new packagings and all the 2020/21 novelties and an inevitable vertical tasting of the famous Gavi dei Gavi Black Label, the iconic wine of La Scolca.
A New Age
It really was only yesterday that I was sitting with about 60 other people at the Commemorating 100 Years of La Scolca tasting at the South Beach Wine and Food Festival (SOBEWFF.) We learned so much from Chiara and Bruce Sanderson, Senior Editor at Wine Spectator, who presented six phenomenal La Scolca wines: 2018 Black 100 Years Gold Bottle, 2018 White Label, 2009 Black Label, 2006 D’Antan, 1999 Black Label, and 1989 Black Label.
Each February, the SOBEWFF attracts more than 65,000 guests to its 100+ events throughout a five-day weekend. To think that just one month ago, we weren’t concerned about hand sanitizer or social distancing and being part of the huge crowd, was part of the fun.
As we live through this pandemic, the future of events and travel will need to be rethought so that our livelihood and lifestyle won’t be impacted in this way, ever again.
When we met, I asked Chiara who is also a past president of Piemonte Wine Tourism, what is the most valuable aspect of wine tourism besides supporting the brands/wineries. She responded, “Receiving people for wine tastings and cellar visits is very important so that we can present the philosophy of the brand. The “Edutainment” (education + entertainment) is something more and a little bit more complex and organized than just a visit. We can offer, for example: blending sessions, harvesting workshops, vineyard nature walks, cooking classes, and other programs.”
Chiara wishes to educate the world about her wines and a cherished native grape called Cortese, and she continues to work tirelessly to make sure her family name is never compromised. True to her namesake Soldati (which means soldier in English), she marches forward without looking back. For her and all of Italy, it must now be very hard to soldier on.
As food, wine, and travel writers or a reader we may feel “grounded,” but this flight delay is temporary. In the meantime, let’s stay “edutained.” Tap into the old and new resources online: virtual tastings, webinars, Instagram lives, cooking demo videos, etc. Continue to buy the Italian products that you love in person or online and help jumpstart the tourism industry when the time is right, by booking a trip, or buying gift certificates for future tours.