Meet our Interns!
Like clockwork, as harvest approaches, so does a new group of interns, joining Avignonesi from all over the world for this year’s grape picking and wine making. We sat down for an interview with Thuise Donadel, our assistant agronomist and once an intern herself here at Avignonesi, to hear about this year’s interns and their important roles during harvest.
1) Tell us about your experience as an intern and why you decided to stay working at Avignonesi after it finished.
I had heard about the internship through a friend that had also completed an internship here. I had previously completed 5 harvests before in France, Argentina, and California, so I was excited to experience harvest in a new place and to get a chance to learn about Italian wine making. I arrived in August 2014, just a couple weeks before harvest started and spent the next 4 months learning so much from Ashleigh and Matteo, the winemakers, in the cellar. Unlike the other interns, however, I had just finished school and was actually looking for a permanent position. Luckily, as I was finishing my internship, a spot opened up to work in the vineyard as an assistant agronomist. I jumped at the chance to gain real in-depth knowledge of the vineyards, to study the vines and biodynamic farming, as well to build a stronger foundation for myself as a winemaker.
2) We have the biggest group of interns we have ever had this year. Any specific reason for the increase?
Well, as you know, we doubled in size in regards to number of hectares of vineyards over the past 4 years. With that additional acreage, more hands are needed. Even though we have grown every year with the number of interns, after last year, we realized that we still needed to have more. This year we have 10 interns that come from all over - Italy, France, Portugal, the UK, Australia and the U.S. In previous years, we have even had interns from Brazil and China. Also, for the first time, we have one person who is focusing solely on experiments for biodynamics and another person who is working in marketing.
3) What will be the main role of the interns during harvest? How are they preparing for that now?
Their main roles will be in the cellar, working directly under the careful guidance of Ashleigh and Matteo. They will be handling all aspects of winemaking, from vine to tank, picking, grape-reception, fermenting, pump-overs, and even sample analysis. All of our interns are hand-selected for their previous experience and knowledge. We are very happy with the level of expertise that they bring to the table.
Currently, as most of the interns just arrived last week, they are in full training mode to get to know the winery, the people here, and how we operate. We want them to feel completely comfortable and confident in the cellar, so they are ready when harvest arrives.
4) How long have we had an internship program? Why is this program so important for Avignonesi?
We have had an internship program for...forever! There was a program here even before Virginie Saverys took over in 2009. Today, for us, it is much more than just a temporary work position. We view it as an investment in ourselves and for the interns we hire. First, since we are already very international, we continue to want a team that is very international. Our owner, Virginie Saverys, comes from Belgium, our winemaker, Matteo Giustiniani, and our Agronomist, Alessio Gorini, are Italian, but have studied in France. Our other winemaker, Ashleigh Seymour is from Australia, and we have our commercial and marketing team that has people from Denmark, China, and the U.S. It’s mutually beneficial for both the interns and for Avignonesi because we can share our experiences with each other and learn from one another’s culture. We don’t forget our interns as they move on and travel the world in their future endeavours, and we hope that they never forget their experience here either. The wine world is quite small and we love building and being a part of such an international network of talent and staying connected.
Second, the interns that we hire and work with are the top in their field and currently learning about the most modern winemaking techniques. Having them at Avignonesi allows us to share our vast knowledge while staying on top of new winemaking techniques and finding new, creative and innovative solutions.As you know, I’m not the first intern that they hired permanently. Ashleigh was once an intern - 5 years later she is now one of our main winemakers! Looking forward, and seeing this group, I’m sure that I’m not the last intern they hire!