How Grit + Grapes Built a Regional Wine Gem
“Wear your work like a favorite dress,” says Francesca Di Nisio, owner of CantinArte, a small-grower wine & olive oil producer in Italy winning international acclaim and distribution. “You must be comfortable in it, you cannot do something that is contrary to your nature.”
Francesca knows a thing or two about perfect fits – she slipped into her role as vintner seamlessly, inheriting both the farmlands that were in her family for generations and a deeply rooted love for the land, learned at her grandmother’s knee.
“CantinArte was born from a childhood dream of mine,” says Francesca. “Thanks to my grandmother, I always loved, breathed, and admired life in the country. I spent countless afternoons with her, and while she cooked, I listened intently to stories about her own childhood on a farm and of the genuineness, simplicity and beauty of taking care of plants as if they were children.”
“My grandmother used to say, either you are born with the desire to invent something that is your own or find a different job! It’s really true – working for yourself necessitates that you love your work.”
Francesca’s company is built on generational lands, but she brings a thoroughly modern lens to nurturing the plants that power CantinArte. The grapes, olive trees, and ochre-tinged saffron -- central to many regional dishes in Abruzzo, where CantinArte is nestled – are certified organic and cultivated with the latest science in biodynamic and organic practices.
Ten years in the making, CantinArte -- which combines the Italian words for “cellar” and “art” – is in full bloom, with CantinArte Montepulciano D’Abruzzo Ode 2014, gracing the top spot on the New York Times’s list of ten under-the-radar wines.
In the first #WatchHerWork profile, Francesca shares a look at her entrepreneurial journey:
What advice would you give someone starting a business? Would you do anything differently if you were starting out today?
“You must believe in your own path and surround yourself only with positive people who encourage you despite your missteps.
Positivity, optimism, and the ability not to take oneself too seriously are the first tools to building an enduring business. Then, determination to DO and to TRY even if you are afraid.
Italians like to say, ‘Nessuno nasce imparato’ - Nobody is born learned - we must train to understand what we must be.
As for doing things differently, I would have used social media more effectively to market our brand from the very beginning. It is something I would advise any entrepreneur to work on, including myself.”
Your customers are all over the world. How do you get the word out about your business? And what type of social media do you use?
“I rely on email marketing campaigns that feature photos of our lands and production. I also use social media, but not as effectively as I should, if I’m being honest. At the moment, I use Facebook and Instagram, but I would also like to use LinkedIn more. Perhaps when I return from my upcoming trip to New York!
Have you experienced any missteps along the way?
“Certainly! It is as important to acknowledge and share failure as it is victory. For instance, the first labels for my bottles were unattractive and didn’t convey the value of our wines well. I learned from that error. I became more thoughtful, less impulsive, more researched in our packaging and marketing. The packaging, the look, the web site, must be well-calibrated.”
Last year, the New York Times raved about your wine, CantinArte Montepulciano D’Abruzzo Ode 2014. Do you have other key victories in your business that you can share?
“As for successes, I could list important prizes and goals that have moved me, but what I particularly enjoy is the human aspect of my work -- meeting people during tours and tastings at CantinArte’s Museo dell’Olio, our olive oil museum -- housed in our 18th century olive oil mill.
In just a few short years, I have met so many people who have stolen my heart, people full of grit, of ideas and projects, of dreams, people who from the moment of our meeting have become my friends.”
*** Thank you, Francesca, for sharing a look at your work and how you built CantinArte!