When Alyson Morgan first arrived in Italy more than 20 years ago to make wine, she was an unusual addition to the landscape in more than one way. She was young, she was American, and she had trained as a scientist at UC Davis. And she was a woman. Then, even more than now, the world of wine was known for being male-dominated and exclusionary, but the world of Italian wine\u2014with the peninsula\u2019s reputation for machismo\u2014might well have been expected to be an utterly misogynist cult. Yet what Morgan ended up encountering did not match that stereotype. \u201cTo be honest,\u201d she says, \u201cI experienced more hazing in California,\u201d where she had worked in wineries in Mendocino before deciding to cross the Atlantic. Morgan says, \u201cWhen I arrived in Italy, I wasn\u2019t just \u2018not a man\u2019; I was different in every way, and they actually seemed to like that, or at least to find it interesting. They were pretty welcoming.\u201d By way of undeniable confirmation, she points out that she ended up getting married, having children and staying in Tuscany for the next two decades, where she still resides, now making wine at Podere Capaccia in Radda in Chianti.\n\n\n\nMorgan is, in fact, part of a robust group of non-ethnically Italian women who have come to Italy since the turn of the last century to make wine and have successfully integrated themselves into the Italian wine business despite having little to no preexisting relationship to the place or its culture. The presence of this group of outsiders in a place known for its attachment to history and tradition provides peculiar insight into the ways in which otherwise closed communities slowly open to new presences and new perspectives. The \u201cextreme\u201d otherness of these new entries\u2014 women, yes, but also foreigners bringing unique experiences and specialized professional expertise\u2014has perhaps allowed them to get a foot in a once sealed door and begin to pry it open.\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nYou May Also Like: 8 Wines that Showcase the Innovative Power of Female Winemakers\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nJoy Kull | Illustration by Natalia Sanabria \n\n\n\nAll in the Family\n\n\n\nJoy Kull, owner and winemaker at La Villana in Lazio outside of Rome, has experienced friction on the business side of things as a result of her gender. \u201cPeople often can\u2019t believe I\u2019m the final stop when it comes to decision-making,\u201d Kull says, \u201cand they\u2019ll ask if I need to discuss something with my husband first.\u201d The practical side of it doesn\u2019t bother her much, as she can shut down that line of questioning pretty quickly, but the fact that other business owners and winemakers are putting her credibility in doubt can be tough, especially because it might well have real ramifications on investment. On the other hand, Kull notes that the fact that she is a foreigner has been less of a problem and more of a curiosity\u2014even an appeal. Kull laughs, \u201cThey think it\u2019s weird that a New Yorker would want to come to live in this part of the Italian countryside,\u201d but the unlikeliness of her presence there, and her appreciation for this unexpected place, generates good will.\n\n\n\nThey oftencan\u2019t believeI\u2019m the finalstop whenit comes todecision-making.Joy Kull\n\n\n\nMelissa di Giovanna | Illustration by Natalia Sanabria \n\n\n\nThis was the experience, too, of Patricia Toth, a Hungarian woman who first spent time in the northeastern Italian wine region of Friuli in 2003 as part of a study abroad program for agricultural studies. She later went to Piedmont to try her hand at Nebbiolo before finally accepting what was meant to be a six-month position in Sicily to work for the winery Planeta. More than 15 years later, her collaboration with Planeta continues, and Toth reflects that she wasn\u2019t very sensitive to her gender difference when she first arrived. She suspects it was partly because of her upbringing in a very gender-equal household, where she and her brother were treated with parity by her father, but she feels it was also because she was \u201cso strange\u201d\u2014female, foreign, focused on new developments in viticulture\u2014that \u201cpeople just listened because they didn\u2019t really know what else to do with me.\u201d Whatever doubts they might have had were fully dispelled when they witnessed Toth\u2019s dedication to the craft and the territory, and in particular when she showed them how serious she was about being a fully enfranchised member of the team. As Toth put it, \u201cWe work very closely and very intensely together. It\u2019s like a bubble. You\u2019re either in or you\u2019re out, so when I\u2019m here working, I\u2019m totally immersed.\u201d\n\n\n\nMelissa Di Giovanna, an American woman who works with her husband and his family making wine at Di Giovanna winery near Agrigento, affirmed this perspective. \u201cWe\u2019re in this as a family,\u201d she observes, adding that the word family is capacious here, to include not only blood relatives but everyone who works to help make their wine a reality, \u201cso there\u2019s a sense that everyone has to contribute once you\u2019re part of the unit.\u201d For Melissa this has meant taking on the roles that she\u2019s best suited to\u2014in this case sales and marketing, given her ability to speak with the American consumer more fluently\u2014 but also, perhaps counterintuitively, having clear opinions and ideas and expressing them. Having come from another cultural context, she can see things her colleagues and relatives can\u2019t, and she has leaned into that strength. Di Giovanna pushed for the creation of a p\u00e9tillant naturel, knowing from an outsider\u2019s point of view that it would be a crowdpleaser and a unique offering that helps Di Giovanna stand apart. Like Toth, Di Giovanna\u2019s wholehearted investment and desire to contribute in concrete ways, despite not being from the territory, is perceived as a sign of her well-deserved place there.\n\n\n\nMaria Soledad | Illustration by Natalia Sanabria \n\n\n\nThe \u2018Right\u2019 Kind of Different\n\n\n\nIf some markers of difference can be repurposed as strengths, others are more malleable and can represent opportunities to vault what might otherwise seem an unbridgeable gap. Soledad Adriasola Lang joined the team at Poderi dal Nespoli in Emilia-Romagna in 2013 and, after a brief hiatus in Piedmont and then Sicily, returned to Poderi dal Nespoli to stay. A native Spanish speaker from Chile, Soledad said that people assumed she would master Italian easily and be immediately comfortable. In fact, she realized quickly that her unfamiliarity with the Romagnolo dialect that was spoken in the area put her at a distinct disadvantage when trying to understand others and make herself understood. To make a connection with the strong local identity reflected in that dialect, she worked hard to learn the vocabulary that her colleagues and neighbors used to most naturally express themselves. She found that they were incredibly receptive to her ideas once they saw that she was serious about forging a relationship with her new home, all the more because Romagna doesn\u2019t have the cachet of other major Italian winemaking regions. They gave her the reins on the production of a skin-contact wine that took advantage of her previous work with biodynamics and her love of playing in the space between tradition and innovation, and Rubicone IGT Bianco, an orange wine, was born. In the latest release, her team surprised her with a new front label that features a transparent circle in the center, allowing the orange color of the wine to show through and look like a sun\u2014a play on her name (\u201cSole\u201d), meant to represent her.\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nYou May Also Like: 8 Orange Wines We're Loving Right Now\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nAcceptance is also contingent on being the \u201cright\u201d kind of different. As Joy Kull also observed, her status is privileged given her background and appearance: \u201cThey don\u2019t really care about me being an immigrant, probably because I\u2019m American and not from a developing nation.\u201d With this comment Kull gives more contour to the question of moral licensing at play here. In one sense, certain kinds of otherness are sometimes awarded reverence rather than suspicion or exclusion, based on larger schemes of class, race and social-cultural capital. In another, a mountain of difference\u2014like the individuals here who set themselves apart via age, gender, nationality and professional preparation\u2014can create an anomalous scenario where standard barriers don\u2019t hold up, simply giving way to curiosity.\n\n\n\nPatricia Toth | Illustration by Natalia Sanabria \n\n\n\nPeople justlistenedbecause theydidn\u2019t reallyknow what elseto do with me.Patricia Toth\n\n\n\nAs with any complex cultural phenomenon, the erosion of gender inequality in the Italian wine business\u2014or the wine business in general for that matter\u2014can\u2019t be interpreted through a single lens, not least because the process is ongoing, but as these non-Italian women winemakers have found success making wine in Italy, they\u2019ve also cast a light of a different hue on that space and its participants. To be sure, the increasing number of non-ethnically Italian women working in Italian wine aligns with an increasing number of Italian women working in Italian wine. The Associazione Nazionale Le Donne Del Vino (National Association of Women in Wine) now counts more than a thousand members, and while coincidence isn\u2019t correlation, it\u2019s certainly the case that as women from beyond Italy have arrived on the scene, women from within Italy have started to find more traction. Attention from the outside, the sense of being in conversation with an international audience and a part of a larger reality not bound by immediate local traditions can spark a desire to be more conversant and more open. It can also prompt self-interrogation and the questioning of practices or modes that remain in place as much as a result of laziness as insistence.\n\n\n\nAs the new winemaker and cellar master at the wildly famous Masseto estate, 30-year-old Gaia Cinnirella points out that her age is probably more commented upon than her gender, although she is very frequently still the only woman in the room when winemakers gather. \u201cThere\u2019s a lot of pressure on me,\u201d she acknowledges, \u201ceven more because they see I don\u2019t look like the usual kind of person in this position.\u201d Being named one of Fortune Italia\u2019s 40 Under 40 Wine Industry Leaders may have helped instill some confidence, but she underlines that she relies on her colleagues to make it all come together. In line with what the other women in her field say, Cinnirella emphasized that building a strong community, however it might be composed, provides the foundation for overcoming any obstacle: \u201cWe work as a team. Because you know at the end of the day, it\u2019s about the wine. If the wine is good everyone forgets the rest.\u201d\n\n\n\nThis article originally appeared in the August/September 2023 issue of\u00a0Wine Enthusiast\u00a0magazine. Click\u00a0here\u00a0to subscribe today!