Meet Marina Girelli

March is about celebrating the native grapes of Sicily and organic producer Azienda Agricola Cortese, with that we caught up with Marina Girelli to find out what bought her to the wine industry and her story.

1) Do you come from a family of wine producers? Winemaking has been my family’s passion for three generations. Our first winery was built in Trento by my grandfather Giovanni but, unfortunately, it was destroyed during the Second World War. Several years later my father and his two brothers rebuilt and expanded the winery in the same area. I always shared my family’s passion for winemaking and upon completing my university studies, I joined my father and my brother in the company. Together, we modernized and increased the winery’s productivity, driving the expansion into international markets. In early 2000s, after coming in contact with the rich and diverse world of Sicilian wine, we were fascinated by the island’s potential, and especially that of its organic wines. For this reason, in 2006 we bought Azienda Agricola Cortese.

2) Did you always know that you would work in the wine sector? Growing up, I was surrounded by the world of wine, the rich heritage of this ancient industry and all the exciting processes that stand behind each bottle of wine we enjoy. Winemaking is full of challenges and needs a lot of hard work and passion to achieve the right results. This is why I decided to continue in the footsteps of my father and grandfather and turn my passion into a career.

3) What is the most rewarding aspect of working in the sector? There are many rewarding aspects in winemaking, especially witnessing how passion, research, and experimentation that start from the vineyard, can sometimes deliver amazing results. A good bottle of wine is the result of a close collaboration between technical professionals and experts in each of the many aspects of wine making. Working closely with this diverse group of professionals makes my work very enjoyable and allows me to achieve significant accomplishments.

4) Do you have a particular grape with which you like to work? Frappato is a unique and special grape that I first encountered in Sicily. Its cultivation is demanding because it’s sensitive to weather variations, but if well treated it’s capable of delivering impressive results in vinification. I like its versatility, which allows it to be consumed on its own or in combination with other grapes varieties such as Nero d’Avola. The unique blend of Frappato and Nero D’Avola allows us to obtain the excellent Cerasuolo di Vittoria, which is one of my personal favourites.

5) Have you ever encountered challenges being a woman working in wine? I was lucky to work from the start in the family business, with my father and my brother who judged my work based on the results, without any prejudice and offering me great support, collaboration and sharing of ideas. The workplace is continuing to progressively change today, and I hope that prejudices against women in business will soon disappear. Personally, my challenge has been to find acknowledgment for my work outside of the family business, which is not always straightforward for a woman.

6) What do you do when you don’t work? I live in a beautiful corner of northern Italy and when I don’t work, I enjoy taking long walks on the mountain trails with my family and my dog. I also enjoy helping my close friend with her garden. 

7) What is the desert island wine? A wine that makes you dream, that brings you the scents of a lush land, the sweet aromas of spices and juicy fruits. The Vanedda Bianco delle Terre Siciliane i.g.p. is the perfect wine.

8) What is your favourite food-wine pairing? My favourite pairing is definitely the Sabuci Cerasuolo di Vittoria d.o.c.g. with deer fillet. Furthermore, I find that, with its unique and fruity aromas, this wine is also perfect with game.