PERUGIA, Italy — Last October, Emily Gove took a trip with her Business of Wine class to Cantina Roccafiore. As she looked at racks of bottles, stacked floor to ceiling in a cathedral of tannic potential, she had little idea that she would be returning to taste the sweet tenants of those cold, dark aging rooms…
About two-thirds of the students at the University of Richmond choose to study abroad, but far fewer return to the country in which they studied. Through the Umbra Institute, an American study abroad program in Perugia, Italy, Emily was able to do just that, thanks to the Institute’s partnership with Cantina Roccafiore. The Food & Sustainability Studies Program, in which Emily had taken part in the Fsemester, had offered the first link to the world of Umbrian food and culture. This summer’s internship at Roccafiore offered not only additional depth, but full Italian immersion. “The food studies program whets your palate,” Emily begins, “and when students develop a passion for the culture of this beautiful place, Umbra is there to help.” The Institute set her up not only with an internship, but also with housing, transportation, and an on-site supervisor, to help her plan and meet her work and research goals.
Cantina Roccafiore, owned by the Baccarelli family and supervised by Laura Fiorucci, is nestled in the hills of Todi, along with Roccafiore Resort and Spa. A young winery (founded in the mid-2000s), Roccafiore focuses on linking the traditional with the modern by incorporating customary practices with modern sustainability techniques. Working with traditional grape varietals native to the area, Roccafiore has also prioritized organic winemaking, a practice often derided by Italian winemakers and associated with bad-tasting wines. Roccafiore’s various awards and high wine ratings refuted competitors’ claims, redefining organic wine and reshaping the image of Umbrian wines and grapes in the international market.
Umbra saw the potential of the winery, choosing to spotlight it for its Business of Wine course in the Fall. Students worked with different products at the winery, developing marketing strategies for each of the wines. This, however, covered only the marketing portion of a winery; the summer internship enabled Emily to experience all that the cantina had to offer, from hospitality to artistic design to ethnography. Not only did it give her better insight into winery marketing and business strategies, it also let her see into the world behind the tasting room.
“This has been an incredible experience, and it not only built off of what I learned at Umbra, but let me look into the lives behind the wine…the people’s lives,” Emily reflects. “Each wine contains their stories, something that consumers may not realize. You look into a glass and, at first, maybe you only see wine, but wine, for me, has become more than the sum of its parts. In that glass is the product of many hands that did the harvest, wild nights of nonstop fermentation, quiet years in dark barrels, each decision reflecting the personalities and dreams of the people who make them.”
Given Emily’s excellent work with Roccafiore, the Umbra Institute plans to continue working with the winery, and offer internships there in the future.