Getting to Know the ‘Queen of Merlot’ and Duca di Salaparuta Winemaker Barbara Tamburini

Women in Wine Barbara Tamburini

Feb. 5, 2021


At this point in her illustrious winemaking career, Barbara Tamburini could be considered wine industry royalty. In 2019, she was named Best Winemaker in Italy, also known as the Giacomo Tachis award, named after the late, great winemaker. The award was given by Bibenda, the Italian wine guide from the Italian Sommelier Foundation, recognizing her 20-year career in the industry.

Last year, she landed the prestigious Golden Pegasus, the highest honor in the Tuscan wine world, during the prestigious Tuscany wine previews.

However, the award that really shines brightest in Tamburini’s career is from Merlot World in 2015 when received the Excellent Protagonists Award, and was famously dubbed “Regina del Merlot,” the Queen of Merlot. 

Tamburini is a consummate professional with rare skills and talent. Her thoughtfulness and attention to detail toward the wine she produces has but few equals, and as a result, Tamburini is as respected throughout the worldwide wine industry as anyone in her field.

We spoke to Tamburini, Duca di Salaparuta’s new winemaker, about her favorite varietals, her wine philosophy, and how she came to study viticulture.

What influenced you growing up to study viticulture?

Barbara Tamburini: I decided that I wanted to become a winemaker when I was an adolescent. This was in line with my desire to go into a profession that did not force me to give up being outdoors and would allow me to have a connection with people who could help develop my intellectual and cultural enrichment.

I chose to study enology at the University of Pisa, in the department of agriculture, where I first obtained my degree in food technologies with a focus in viticulture and enology. 

Barbara Tamburini vineyard

Tell us about your winemaking philosophy.

My philosophy has always included a balanced combination of tradition and modernity. In nature, as in life, nothing is ever taken for granted. I never fail to remind myself and those around me of this. Nothing must be left to chance and requires great attention to technical details to help make the difference. Wine must be followed and as it sends signals, you must react to them, understand them, and not let them escape.

For me, wine is a work of art, and like all works of art, it is born from the brain and soul of those who created them. It must be considered an expression of nature through human creativity. For this reason, I would argue that the quality of the wines I produce is often my best business card.

The charm of wine is inexhaustible, both when you imagine and design it as a winemaker —ultimately giving your input to develop it —and after several years, when you uncork a bottle that arouses extraordinary emotions.

I am always attentive to the results of research in viticulture & enology and ready to implement the new techniques that may arise. I am aware that you must know how to interpret the potential of the vines in expressing the link they have to the territory in which they are grown —this is very important to me. Additionally, I am constantly trying to understand the evolution of the market and the demands of the consumer. 

I would argue that the quality of the wines I produce is often my best business card.
- Barbara Tamburini

If you had to drink one varietal for the remainder of your life, what would it be and why?

It is hard to choose just one, but if I had to choose one white and one red, I would choose the native Sicilian variety, zibibbo, as my selection of white. This extraordinary grape, in addition to showcasing the island’s sunshine, has a truly unique charm and personality. It has an intriguing floral and fruity aroma, it’s fresh and has great complexity on the palate.

For the red, I would choose an international varietal that I adore both professionally and personally. I’ve even received an important award for it: The Queen of Merlot!

Barbara Tamburini award

What can we expect to see from you and Duca di Salaparuta in the future?

I am delighted to share the quality work and passion with the team at Duca di Salaparuta. I am convinced that for a great winemaker to accomplish significant results, it’s crucial that they can establish and share the same objectives with the entire organization.

This will help ensure that the wines we produce will lead the consumer, wherever they are in the world, to imagine being in Sicily where these wines were produced, and that the blend of elegance, finesse, and balance gives the best expression of each grape variety from the territory in which it comes. 


This story is part of our award-winning “Women in Wine” series, our long-running effort to highlight winemakers, sustainable specialists, executives, and others making a positive impact in the world of wine.

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