Natalie Pizzini, Pizzini Wines

Natalie Pizzini
Natalie Pizzini is the Marketing Manager and general dynamo of Pizzini Wines in Victoria’s King Valley. As a third generation member in the family business, getting along with your parents and siblings is essential to success. So how does she do it? This is her story.

When, why and how did you first enter the wine industry?

Sometimes it is not what you know it is who you know! Being Alfred and Katrina Pizzini’s eldest daughter I am lucky enough to know the owners of Pizzini well! Seriously though, I began working in hospitality when I was 14, I fell in love with the industry and have stayed in it ever since. I am lucky that my parents have a small country hotel, which I managed for some time and cut my teeth in the management side of business, before our wine label needed a Marketing Manager. Once Pizzini grew to a size where we needed someone, I skipped from the hotel to the wine business, I have stayed here ever since. And now I think I have the best job in the wine industry!

What’s it like to be working in a family business? What are the positives and what are the challenges?

Family businesses are pretty special beasts. To be continually successful in our family business I have to be a sister, sister-in-law, boss, daughter, employee, babysitter, mother and wife all in the one day sometimes. So I have learned to wear many hats – sometimes not that successfully! But at the same time, the love, support and opportunities that I have been given over the last 20 years of working in our businesses have allowed me to flourish. I have always known barring a major catastrophe I will always have a job, in the corporate world, this isn’t always assured!

Given that there’s no shortage of family members, how do you decide who does what in the business?

We have six family members working in our business full time. We have all been educated in different areas of the wine industry and all have a good understanding of our strengths and weaknesses. We are at present going through a succession planning phase and this comes with challenges, but none that cannot be overcome and capitalised on. We are a strong, loving family in business, and recognise family in every aspect of our business.

What is your current role at Pizzini, and what does that involve day to day?

I am the head of Marketing for Pizzini and our associated businesses. My days are filled with meetings, emails, event planning, social media activities and managing my amazing team in our cellar door and wine club. The best part of my job is being able to eat at amazing restaurants and meeting fabulous people who love wine and food.

The Pizzini Family
The Pizzini Family

What is the philosophy behind Pizzini Wines?

Our philosophy at Pizzini is based on our family’s three loves – family, friends food and wine. Everything we do is based on these pillars. We specialise in Italian wine styles from the King Valley, but all of our activities we participate in revolve around our three loves!

Outside of Victoria, the King Valley is not as widely known as perhaps it should be. What should we all know about the King Valley region? Why is it so fabulous?

There’s three key things in my opinion.

1. You will meet the makers when you visit the cellar doors in the King Valley. We are still small operations, so take the opportunity while we still are and visit us now to meet the people who make the wines, prepare the food and own the businesses.

2. The welcome you receive when you visit our region will be warm, generous and honest. Yes we love wine, yes we want to sell our wine, but the Italian spirit is alive in the King Valley, it is our secret weapon!

3. There are plenty of great places to stay, beautiful places to eat and if you love to ride your bike, plenty of country roads to meander around.

wines lined up

What grape varieties do you make wine from at Pizzini? And are they all sourced from your own vineyards?

Pizzini specialises in Italian wine styles and we have been making them commercially since 1996. We make Prosecco, Pinot Grigio, Arneis, Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, Brachetto and many many more! The majority of the fruit we use to make our wines come from our vineyard in the King Valley, we do purchase some Pinot Grigio, Merlot, Sagrantino and Cabernet Sauvignon but the majority comes from our own vineyards. We make lighter savoury wine styles – the King Valley is the perfect region for growing fruit to make these wine styles.

What are your own personal favourites from those you produce, and why?

I love Nebbiolo – a powerful, intense, elegant wine style that is amazing when you have it with the perfect food match. It is the king of Italian wine styles, i recommend everyone try a Nebbiolo.

What is your absolute favourite wine and food pairing? And what should we keep in mind when matching food and wine?

My favourite food and wine pairing is Sangiovese and pork. Pork cooked any way or cured anyway is perfect with Sangiovese. The softness from the fat in the pork works wonders of the tannins of Sangiovese. I love the savouriness of this wine style, the bitter chocolate and maraschino cherry flavours…yum!

As a woman working in the wine industry, have you faced any particular challenges where your gender has ever been an issue?

Possibly, but it certainly hasn’t stopped me from achieving my goals – either personal or business related. I would say that some I have encountered in business have found my strength an issue – but that is their problem, not mine!

In your experience, do women think about or talk about wine differently than blokes do?

I think some women think more creatively about wine, especially when describing the flavours they can pick up. I love the fact that women are the ones seeking out wines lower in alcohol and those which are less fruit driven, savoury, layered and textural as opposed to staying with the traditional full bodied, fruit driven styles that have been demanded in the past. I love the fact that demand for these styles is growing in Australia.

What’s your number one tip for tasting wine?

Don’t be intimidated by wine sales people at cellar door – they are there to serve you and no question is too silly to ask. You will remember a great cellar door experience for the rest of your life, and a great experience provides you with the best stories to tell your mates. When you head to cellar doors dont be shy to create conversation with the sales staff – they love to talk about wine and they love it when they strike someone just as passionate – they may even have a surprise “special” bottle of the wine under the bench usually reserved for their wine club customers or other winemakers to taste!

If there was one thing you could tell the sisterhood of wine-lovers out there, what would it be?

Dont limit yourselves to Pinot Noir and Champagne – there is nothing wrong with these wine styles, but there is a world of variety of wine styles available to us now so try everything and anything, be worldly in your wine choices and dont be afraid to experiment – you know if you dont like it – just spit it out and try the next wine!

Natalie Pizzini will be co-hosting two events with us in May 2015. The Albury-Wodonga Fabulous Ladies Wine Soiree on Wednesday 6th May and the Sydney Fabulous Ladies Wine Soiree on Thursday 7th May. Tickets on sale now.