Friday, September 16, 2016, is the 90th birthday of one the wine world’s most precious gems, Giacomo Oddero, beloved patriarch of Barolo’s Poderi e Cantine Oddero. He served as a great inspiration for me as wrote Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte. No doubt in his many years as a revered wine industry leader he has inspired many others.
I will be forever grateful to Giacomo Oddero, his daughters Maria Vittoria and Mariacristina, and granddaughter, Isabella, for the more than three hours they spent with me in May 2015, as they wove the story of the Oddero family through the centuries, and the many months of follow-up that lead to their chapter.
It was for Giacomo and his family, and all the other families who made Piemonte’s wine culture one of the greatest in the world that I wrote Labor of Love. Therefore, in honor of Giacomo and of his late wife, Carla, I am posting an excerpt from Chapter 7 of my book. Those who haven’t had the pleasure of meeting him will gain some knowledge of the man, his region, and the women in his life. Those of you who do know Giacomo will no doubt smile and thank God such a man has walked the planet for so long.
Here’s to many more wonderful years of life to Giacomo Oddero!
Carla Scanavino Oddero (1927–2003)
In the early 20th century, education was still not commonplace in the countryside, but Maria insisted her sons Giacomo and Luigi attend school in Alba. Luigi chose oenology at the famous Scuola di Enologica. Giacomo chose a classical education at the Liceo Classico, then studied chemistry and pharmacology at the University of Turin. To this day, Giacomo is known fondly for frequently quoting Shakespeare and the classics. His favorite writer is Alessandro Manzoni, the beloved 19th-century author of I Promessi Sposi, the most famous Italian novel of all time.
Cancer took Giovanni Oddero in 1951. Maria and her two sons continued to run the winery as Europe entered into a postwar era for the second time in less than 50 years. This time, unlike the decades when the Fascists ruled after World War I, the economy prospered. Giacomo remained heavily involved with the family business, marketing the wines and beginning his political activities. Luigi ran the vineyards and cellar. Together, they expanded their land holdings primarily in La Morra as they acquired coveted vineyards in the Barolo villages of Castiglione Falletto, Serralunga d’Alba, and Monforte d’Alba with help from yet another strong Oddero woman.
During their high school studies at the Liceo Classico of Alba, Giacomo met Carla Scanavino. Their shared interests brought them together and on the 19th of April 1953, they married. Carla, who died in 2003, was a determined woman with a brilliant mind, one of the first women of Alba to graduate from university. Carla had become a pharmacist in Alba, eventually buying the pharmacy where she worked. That clever acquisition led to many more crucial land acquisitions for the family when, through Carla’s hard work, the pharmacy became the funding mechanism of Oddero’s expansion. Her earnings funded an expanded cellar and acquisitions of more important crus that positioned the company for greatness.
Giacomo called the purchases of the most historically important and prestigious vineyards in the region Carla helped secure, “the greatest satisfaction I had in my life as a wine grower.” A particularly fond memory was their acquisition of the Vigna Rionda in Serralunga and Rocche di Castiglione vineyards. “I remember I went into the vineyards at night, all alone, to admire the land I had just bought, with no other light than the moonlight,” he recalled. “I was full of gratitude for the efforts we all made to put aside the money to buy these amazing pieces of land.”
Despite financing the real estate expansion, Carla’s name does not appear on any official ownership documents. It just wasn’t done in those days. The end of patriarchal inheritance, giving women full rights, did not occur until 1975. She is, however, very much a part of the winery’s story. “Our holdings today are only possible because of my grandmother,” Isabella explained. “Our riches happened after World War II as the result of Carla, Giacomo, and Luigi,” she said. Isabella is frustrated that despite her grandmother’s significant contributions in the expansion of Oddero winery, no one outside the family knows it. It’s the unsung heroines — like Luigia, Maria, and Carla — who inspired me to be their families’ scribe. It’s a pity the three women didn’t live to see their granddaughters, Cristina and Isabella, become internationally acclaimed winemakers. One thing is certain — their granddaughters and other wine women of the present generation know that without the courage, financial savvy, and wisdom of these long-departed women, their lives would be quite different today. Here in the Langhe, the women of the past will never be forgotten.
Giacomo Oddero (1926)
The Oddero story is not only one of strong women whose boldness and wisdom made their families prosper, but one of its male heroes, too. Giacomo Oddero is among them. Everyone familiar with Italian wine is familiar with the classification system, particularly the acronyms “DOC” and “DOCG.” What isn’t as well known is Giacomo Oddero’s contribution to this system created to protect the integrity and quality of Italian wines. His intimate involvement in the landmark legislation was a moment of great personal satisfaction for him and great pride for the family.
In explaining to me the need for the classification system, Giacomo divided Piemonte’s post–World War II years into two phases. In the first phase, immediately after the war, people fled the countryside’s poverty for cities where industrialization took hold. Fiat, the car manufacturer in Turin, and Ferrero, the producer of heavenly chocolate confections in Alba, were two of the industrial magnets that drew many from the agrarian life their families had lived for generations. Giacomo Oddero and his younger brother Luigi were among the Piemontesi who possessed foresight about the area’s potential and remained in the Langhe.
At the time, wine production was mostly unregulated, leading to a crisis of confidence in the region’s most precious commodity, one that held the key to its economic viability. As the postwar economy improved, focus shifted to quality for both producers and consumers. From the implementation of a system that assured quality standards, farmers finally could benefit more from the results of their work. Slowly, step-by-step, they built a better life.
Giacomo Oddero and other “historical producers” including Giovanni Gaja from Barbaresco and Giovan Battista Rinaldi from Barolo were champions of quality and the integrity of their denomination’s wines. Before Giacomo began his five-year tenure as mayor of La Morra in 1965, he advocated for the adoption of laws to protect the Italian wine industry’s integrity, specifically Barolo. For nearly two years, Giacomo met with farmers most nights to explain the system’s importance to their industry. The farmers were concerned that it meant only more bureaucracy, but Giacomo convinced them that the proposed quality assurance laws meant protection for themselves and their consumers.
In 1963, Law 930 was enacted, creating the Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC, or controlled designation of origin) system of strict rules governing the production of classified wines. That was a significant milestone in the history of the Italian wine industry, but it took several decades for the specific regulations for each DOC wine to be written. As the Cuneo and Asti regions’ vintner representative, Giacomo made frequent trips to Rome to meet with the Ministry of Agriculture, helping to craft the language of the new classification law as it pertained to Barolo.
By the early 1980s, industry leaders and government officials recognized the need for another, higher level of classification, the Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG, or controlled and guaranteed designation of origin). After producing a wine as a DOC wine for 10 years, producers could now apply for the DOCG, elevating the status of the wine with that one additional word “guaranteed.” Although some believe there are now too many DOCG wines, the philosophy is sound and its implementation was crucial in cementing Piemonte’s place on the world stage. From 1976 until 1992, Giacomo was president of the Cuneo Chamber of Commerce. During that time, he continued to help write specific regulations for other DOC wines of the region while continuing to champion quality and integrity in Barolo.
Giacomo is very proud of the system he helped create, ushering in what he calls the second postwar phase. He believes that the system built trust and halted the exodus of families and workers from the land. Farmers began returning to the hills, and the tide turned. Farmers who used to sell their grapes to negotiants, who in turn sold them to wineries, began producing wine under their own labels. This enabled them to send their kids to oenology school and travel the world to market their wines. “It was extremely important to the success of the region,” Giacomo said.
In 1985, Giacomo and other Langhe producers presented their wines for the first time at a wine expo in New York City. Giacomo laughed at how the French producers arrived with the French Minister of Agriculture on the Concorde, with the French national anthem “La Marseillaise” playing as they deplaned, while the Barolo producers had to scramble for posters of Verdi’s Aida to decorate their exposition. Although none of them spoke English, they succeeded in orchestrating a successful introduction of Barolo to the wine world, with Giacomo Oddero as a conductor. Beautiful wine like Barolo transcends language barriers. For Giacomo and many of his fellow Barolo vintners, it would be daughters, not sons, who would follow in their footsteps.
Oddero Women Crafting the Future
Cristina sees a bright future for Oddero and for the region. Looking back on the difficult years, the much-loved and respected Cristina Oddero reflected, “I feel good when I think about what I achieved after so many years of disagreements and difficulties I encountered on my way when I first approached business.” And her father is also happy to see his family strong, thanks to the indomitable spirit of its women. The winery will no doubt prosper under Cristina’s stewardship. She has the blood of Luigia, Maria, and Carla coursing through her veins.
Giacomo shared his thoughts about the ascendance of women in the wine industry. His wise, soulful words beautifully captured all that I witnessed over my years in Piemonte, watching the transition from a male-dominated wine culture to one inclusive of Piemonte’s strong women. Giacomo is happy to see so many talented women working together with their fathers as they prepare to one day inherit their family’s wineries. “The relationship between women and the Langhe wine industry is a brand-new typology of relations. This is a more deliberate way of working, with greater sensitivity and better attention to details. And small details make huge differences when talking about wine. Wine needs to be treated gently and with patience. These are characteristics inside women’s nature.” Long before Giacomo Oddero was born, women helped secure the future of his family. The inspiration and guidance born of his own mother’s character that he gave his daughters and grandchildren created a strong bridge to the future for the women and men who now follow him.
Enthusiastic audiences in Piemonte and Colorado have been enjoying my readings and discussions about my new book, Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte, made more delightful by their connection with the families through the wine in their glass.
Prima’s wine director and co-owner, John Rittmaster, has assembled an impressive line-up of visiting vinous royalty for a wine-book pairing aperitivo at this transcendental TGIF Piemontese experience.
CALL FOR RESERVATIONS!
Books will be available for purchase and signing at the event!
Come join Master Sommelier David Glancy and me (Suzanne) for a Piemontese experience unlike any other available on the eastern shores of the Pacific.
Award-winning wine writer Fred Swan, who is on the faculty at the school, has put together, has worked tirelessly to put together an amazing tasting list of 30 Piemonte wines from 12 different producers in the Langhe, Roero, and Monferrato areas of this iconic Italian wine region.
The program includes David Glancy’s guided tasting of four lovely Piemontese wines with my input vis-à-vis a reading and discussion about the book and the families. Afterward, enjoy a walk-around to taste the other 26 wines assembled for this celebration (which it truly is).
You can reserve and pay online. Easy peasy! Books will be available for purchase and signing. This event is open to the public. A special, reduced rate applies for industry professionals.
Expand Your Vinous Horizons!
Yes, I know California’s wine country cocoons San Francisco and that Cabernet Sauvignon, not Barolo, is king there. But even in Piemonte they enjoy other region’s wines, so why not grab this mind-expanding, oenological opportunity, join me in the City by the Bay on the 9th and 11th of September, and meet the visiting vinous royalty from Piemonte!
Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte is touching the hearts and minds of not only oenophiles with a passion for Piemonte, but also people across the world who love great stories about courage, familial bonds, and history. And who doesn’t love Italian heritage and culture? A great way to celebrate these wonderful families than at a wine-book pairing event!
As my loyal followers know, we had a fabulous global world premiere of my book at Ca’ del Baio in Treiso (Barbaresco) with friends, family, local dignitaries, and, of course, the wine families, on June 2, 2016.
We followed that event with a smaller, but equally emotional event at the Castello di Monticello on the 5th of June. Thank you, Contessa Elisa Roero di Monticello for your amazing hospitality and Eugenio and Pierangelo Vacchetto for organizing it!
It was appropriate that we would have this special event at Bookworm since I had spent so many hours there during the gestation of Labor of Love. The owner of this popular indie bookshop, Nicole Magistro, is a passionate supporter of independent authors and routinely provides venues for author events and launches for many indie books.
Labor of Love and the wines of its wine families pair beautifully for author events. We have lots of those coming soon!
Thursday, August 4th
Glendale (Denver), Colorado
Books available at the event!
Ridge Street Wine/Breckenridge Cheese & Chocolate
Breckenridge, CO Thursday, August 11th
Books available at event!
Prima Vini e Ristorante Walnut Creek, CA Friday, September 9th 5:30 p.m. reading followed by tasting of an awesome wine line up!
In March 2013, under gray skies with a drizzly fog
blanketing the earth,I met Ornella Correggia.
I knew of her from her wines, and I knew her story. But I didn’t know her. As I gazed into her deep, warm brown eyes, a calm feeling washed over me. Time has deepened my conviction that an aura of tranquility and deep peace surrounds her and nurtures all in her universe. One cannot infer from the serene demeanor of the woman I know today how very tested Ornella has been.
In most Piemonte wine families, women ascend into the operation and management of family wineries by choice or, as in recent years, through inheritance. For the matriarch of the esteemed Roero winery Matteo Correggia, on the outskirts of Canale, cruel fate propelled her to the helm. Early in the evening on June 12, 2001, the untimely death of her husband, Matteo, shattered Ornella’s world. Tragedy not only destroys lives but shapes them, too. For Ornella, the sudden reversal of fortune called for her to summon courage she never knew she had to continue her husband’s legacy for her young children. Would they grow up to want the vintner’s life for themselves? No one knew. But Ornella was determined the family’s winery would be there for them if they chose to perpetuate their father’s legacy.
At 39, Matteo Correggia had already achieved global acclaim as a brilliant oenological visionary who saw Roero’s potential as a serious red wine producing region. Matteo was a shooting star, dazzling with his brilliance and vision, but unlike those that burn out, Matteo’s star continues to shine, thanks to Ornella.
I never met Matteo, but I remember clearly the impact his death had on the region. The accidental death of a young man in his prime shook the close-knit Piemonte wine community to its core and reverberated across the globe. The year 2001 was one of shock and loss in the United States, leaving life forever changed. But three months before the events of that bluebird-sky day in New York in September 2001, the wine country in central Piemonte quaked with its own heartbreaking loss.
Matteo inherited the estate — already highly regarded for its bulk wines — from his father, Giovanni Battista Correggia, who died when Matteo was 23. Like his father, Matteo had a deep love for the vineyards, a love he shared with his mother, Severina, now over 80, who still is most at home among the vines. Like most of his contemporary vintners, Matteo believed the quality of his wines depended on vineyard health and the care given to the vines during the growing season. He was the only non-Barolo member of the young guns in Barolo known as the “Barolo Boys,” a group of young visionary vintners challenging time-honored traditions in the famous denomination. Like his comrades, Matteo gave more attention to vineyard management than had previous generations. He knew Roero could produce superior wines, but he believed the key to success lay more in the vineyards than even in the cantina. Caring for the soil was the task he was engaged in when fate struck its cruel blow.
In his homage to Matteo, journalist Sergio Miravalle describes the tragedy in his book, Matteo Correggia: La Cometa del Roero (Matteo Correggia: The Comet of Roero). Ornella gave me a copy of his book, in which she wrote a poignant message. I am in his debt for the following story.
(continued on page 49 of Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte)
I’ve read dozens of wine books over the past few decades. Most of these works are meant as reference guides, filled with facts and figures about vineyards, cellars, grape types and other such data. A few have been exceptional, but all have added to my education regarding wines from around the world.
Now though, a new book has come along that is just as valuable as those others, but instead of information on clones or how vineyards are planted, the focus of this book is on people, specifically women in the region of Piemonte, in Italy’s northwest. The book, Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte, authored by Suzanne Hoffman, is not only a well-written, fascinating journey into this region’s history over the past hundred years or so, it’s also an engaging work that is quite refreshing, as it gives us a look at the individuals that make wine.
Hoffman, an attorney by trade, has been traveling to Piemonte with her husband for many years and slowly but surely, thanks in large part to the friendship of a Barbaresco producer, has been introduced to several local winemaking families. She tells the story of multiple generations of these families, with the focus on the women. One of the principal tenets of this book is that these women now have more visible duties as far as winemaking, sales and marketing, but the author points out that the women that made these wineries great along with their husbands, uncles and sons, had tremendous responsibilities in the past as well. Perhaps they weren’t doing any cellar work, but their behind the scenes labors were just as important some forty, fifty and seventy years ago.
A great example of how important women were to these firms can be found in the chapter on Cascina delle Rose, a small, traditional producer of stellar quality in Barbaresco. The current owner is Giovanna Rizzolio, an opinionated woman of fierce convictions (Hoffman labels her as “gregarious.”). In the family history that the author explores, it is Giovanna’s grandmother Beatrice Rizzolio that emerges as a strong influence, not only with her immediate family, but also with the community, as she would do others favors, such as lending money. As Hoffman points out, Beatrice did this with not with a written contract, but merely with “a handshake and meeting of eyes.” That was sufficient for Beatrice.
But there is more to this woman that simple favors for locals. Hoffman details her activities from 1943 to 1945, when the German army settled in the area. Beatrice stood up to these invaders, at one point putting herself in bodily harm, in order to protect a group of teenage boys. Stories such as these help give the reader insight into Beatrice and other strong women of Piemonte, which in turn help us understand the moral fiber of these people. Is it any wonder then why the local wines are so distinctive?
There are numerous stories of how local women stayed strong, as their decisions were needed. An example of this can be found in the chapter on the Poderi Oddero estate of Santa Maria, below the town of La Morra. The author notes that the Mariacristina Oddero, who learned about winemaking and terroir from her father as well as in her studies in Alba (she has a degree in vineyard management and taught classes on soil chemistry for several years), had to confront her uncle Luigi about the direction the winery would take – would it be bulk wine or improved quality through stricter work? The story is a fascinating one.
Hoffman writes about 22 wineries in Piemonte, ranging from famous Barolo producers , such as Giuseppe Rinaldi and Elio Altare, to lesser-known, but equally quality-minded firms such as Monchiero Carbone and Deltetto, both located in the Roero district. She has done a remarkable amount of research for this book, with most of it being sit-down interviews with the current generation of women, who took the time to narrate their family’s history to Hoffman. One telling remark comes from Gaia Gaja, daughter of Angelo Gaja, one of Piemonte’s and the world’s most famous vintners. The younger Gaja tells Hoffman that there is not a competition between fathers and daughters, as there might be with fathers and sons. “It is about open love, sharing knowledge and passing it on to the next generation,” she remarks.
There are more than two hundred, full-color photos in the book, along with a few dozen vintage black and white images. The photos are excellent and how gracious of the author to take the space at the end of the book to credit the local photographers.
All in all, here is a book that was written by an outsider, an outsider in name only. After reading Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte, you would swear that Suzanne Hoffman is someone that has been living in Piemonte for years. In reality then, she has become an insider. All of us who love the wines of Piemonte should read this book, if only to understand that these singular wines are great not only because of decades of work in the vineyards, but also the determination of these people as they present wines that represent their traditions, their heritage and their anima – their soul.
Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte / USD $55 / Euro 50
For further information or to order, please send an email to Suzanne Hoffman at:
PUBLISHED BY tom hyland
I am a freelance wine writer and photographer specializing in the wines of Italy. I live in Chicago and recently completed my 65th trip to Italy. I have visited virtually every region in the country and am constantly amazed at the wonderful variety of wines produced from indigenous grapes (I am never amazed at the quality of the wines!). I have been in the wine business for 35 years, have been writing for 17 years and have been a professional photographer for the past eight years. I currently contribute to publications such as Decanter and wine-searcher.com. I am a freelance photographer for Cephas Picture Library in England and have had my photos published in the publications above plus several more. View all posts by tom hyland
Mi dispiace! A great deal has been happening and I’ve been quite remiss in updating my blog for my loyal followers. I’m thrilled to say, it’s all been good and getting better for me and for Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte.
Kicking Off Second Printing with Kickstarter
In April 2016, we were wildly successful with our Kickstarter campaign to raise capital for a second printing of the “opera” dedicated to the wine families of Piemonte.
From Padua with Love
That same month, the Italian shipment of books arrived at Cà del Baio in Treiso (Barbaresco) from Verona Libri’s bindery in Padua in preparation for the June 2nd world premiere of the book.
Sneak Peek and Love in the Press
Then came a raid on the books stored at Cà del Baio when several Langhe Ladies seized the opportunity to give journalists at Nebbiolo Prima 2016 a sneak peek of Labor of Love. Journalists weren’t the only ones seeing Labor of Love for the first time. As you can see from the video of Barolo vintner Chiara Boschis presenting the book, the Langhe Ladies enjoyed their little public relations coup.
The word was out and soon the local press was telling everyone about the book and the American woman who wrote it.
“Rehearsal” Supper at Ristorante il Centro
The Cordero family provided me with a gastronomic retreat from the heat and the hectic pace of interviews over the three-year odyssey to research Labor of Love. It seemed fitting that their restaurant in the Roero town of Priocca d’Alba would be the venue for our gathering of out of town friends and family the night before the book launch at Cà del Baio, not unlike the rehearsal celebration the night before a wedding.
Since I was like a deer caught in the headlights and not focusing on photography or notes that night, I am grateful to Claudia Kiely for her photographs she shared with me and to Keith Edwards and his wife, Parlo, for being attentive guests who help record the evening’s food, wine, and images. Check out Keith’s lovely post on his blog, Mise en Abyme.
Of course, I couldn’t let the evening go by without presenting dear Elide with a copy of my book.
Launching “Labor of Love” into the World
Finally came the world premiere of Labor of Love at Cà del Baio in Treiso on June 2, 2016. Rain failed to dampen everyone’s spirits. In fact, the inclement weather necessitated a change in the seating arrangement to a “theatre in the round.” It was an intimate setting for an emotional presentation.
Members of 20 of the Labor of Love families, other wine producers, friends, dignitaries, and our guests from America, Israel, and Switzerland, including my editor Elatia Harris (whom I was meeting for the first time ever), gathered around, protected from the rain. Wine producer, historian, and author Maurizio Rosso of Cantina Gigi Rosso introduced the book in Italian. With her own wit and infectious laugh, my dear friend and Barolo vintner Chiara Boschis translated for the Anglophone guests in the audience.
I began by introducing Alberto di Grésy, proprietor of the highly respected Barbaresco winery Marchesi di Grésy whose words are the first of the book:
Then, fighting the emotion that had been building for three years, I introduced each of the 22 families. I’m told there were no dry eyes in the audience.
Labor of Love at Castello di Monticello
Three days later on June 5th, at the Castello di Monticello in Roero, was the subject of an interesting panel discussion that focused on my motivation to write the book, why I chose these particular families, and, oddly enough, which wines from the region are my favorite. I’ll save that answer for another post! The Labor of Love photographic family trio of Pierangelo Vacchetto and two of his children Elisabetta and Eugenio, organized the event in the historic landmark.
Contessa Elisa Roero di Monticello graciously hosted us with Silvio Artusio Comba, mayor of Monticello, Giancarlo Montaldo, Carlo Passone, and my dear friend and translator for the event, Barolo vintner Chiara Boschis for the panel discussion about Labor of Love.
Once again, many of the wine families in Labor of Love attended to lend their support. Now all 22 had shown their enthusiastic support of the book at an event.
Of course, I couldn’t say good-bye to the ladies of Labor of Love without our traditional feast together. This year, the ladies took Dani and me to the La Morra dining oasis Ristorante Bovio.
Labor of Love Comes to America
Soon it was time to head back to the United States to receive the shipment of 1,200 books from Verona Libri and to launch Labor of Love in the United States.
I wasted no time in delivering books to the Bookworm of Edwards, the venue for the U.S. launch, and giving the very first book out of the U.S. shipment to Alisha and Giuseppe Bosco. Alisha has three photos credited in the book and she and Giuseppe have been incredibly supportive throughout my labor of love odyssey.
Elisa Pesce who writes the delightful blog Uncorkventional attended the launch in Treiso. About three weeks later I discovered her beautiful post that gave me a chance to relive that emotional day when the wine families of Labor of Love experienced the book for the first time.
Thank you, Elisa, for this lovely ending to your post:
One of the biggest challenges for independent authors is getting their books on the radar of journalists to review it. Fortunately, Giancarlo Montaldo witnessed firsthand the love the families of Labor of Love had for the book and he published my first newspaper review — a lovely, positive one — in the Gazzetta d’Alba.
So who will be next to review my opera?
What’s Next? LAUNCHING IN AMERICA!
The Bookworm in Edwards, a vibrant independent bookstore and cafe in the Riverwalk complex along the Eagle River, frequently hosts author events. They are very welcoming and supportive of new authors, particularly those from Colorado. They graciously invited me to present Labor of Love for the first time in the United States on Thursday, July 7th.
And more events to come in Denver, San Francisco, and beyond!
Where can I find Labor of Love?
Labor of Love will be available at the Bookworm in Edwards, through many wine shops and restaurants, and in August, Amazon. To find out how you can obtain this groundbreaking book the Piemontese wine families have embraced, contact Suzanne Hoffman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As I was flipping through photographs from my book, Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte,I recalled how those beautiful mother-daughter relationships in Piemonte’s wine country motivated me during my labor of love. So I thought I’d share some photos from my files of wonderful mothers of Piemonte.
A groundbreaking book about generations of inspiring women in 22 Piemontese wine families coming
into their own as vintners and leaders
I am Suzanne Hoffman, the author Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte, a book unlike any ever written about wine families. I tell the hidden stories of the women of 22 wine families rooted for generations in the Italian wine region of Piemonte. Whether famous the world over or known only within Italy, each family is rich in history. Wine family women in Piemonte are stepping out of the shadows as owners and vintners, undreamt of a generation ago. And how that came to be is a story I have held in sacred trust…until now.
Who am I to write this book?
I love food. I adore wine. I am Sicilian on my mother’s side. I was born and raised in the rich gastronomic culture of south Louisiana as a member of the third generation of a vibrant, loving Sicilian family of immigrants. Being Sicilian means knowing and craving tradition – in wine, in food, and in anything to do with the family. From the moment I first set foot in Italy in 1975, I’ve been on a very natural path to becoming a wine family expert. It has taken many years.
“With her sensibility and passion, Suzanne has slowly come ever closer to our culture and has absorbed its intimate values. Only the completion of this wonderful book will contribute to the legacy of female culture in the millennia-long history of Italian civilization.” ~ Maurizio Rosso, author, historian, and owner, Cantina Gigi Rosso (Barolo)
It could have been an opera; it could have been a novel…
I lived and worked in Switzerland for 20 years. Traveling the short distance to the Langhe, Roero, and Monferrato regions of Piemonte pulled me into another world that I instinctively understood and felt as though I belonged to. I heard stories drawing me into an immense 19th century novel of sacrifice, joy, loss, and triumph.
The lives of these families – some aristocratic, some rising from abject poverty – were worthy of great Italian opera plots. All the while I was witnessing a tremendously moving process – an agrarian society coping with seismic change.
The shedding of societal norms that kept women in the shadows – queens in their houses, but serfs in the wineries and vineyards – meant that wine family women could now share control of their families’ patrimonies, and take a firm hand in shaping their own destinies. Daughters began to take the reins of some of the most famous wine brands in the region, unimaginable only a few decades ago. To see an entire generation of women rapidly striding into the forecourt of the region’s lifeblood industry awed me.
Oh, my – I felt such urgency to tell the story of this transformation, and to tell it as the wine families themselves experienced it. Time was of the essence. Many patriarchs and matriarchs were approaching their 90th year. Would I tell their stories in time for them to read the book?
The first wine family women to inspire me to write Labor of Love were Giovanna Rizzolio of Cascina delle Rose in Barbaresco, and her late grandmother Beatrice Rizzolio. The stories of many other women and their families soon captivated me. You can see why they are special.
Beatrice Rizzolio faced down Nazis during the German occupation and is memorialized in the garden of the Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. Yet few, outside the family know of her heroism. I happened to see photos of her in various stages of her life, and asked for the story of the woman with infinite gravitas. That’s how I came to know her. This was a woman who never had a moment’s trouble knowing the right thing to do, even when doing it might have cost her everything.
Beatrice’s granddaughter Giovanna Rizzolio overcame societal scorn as she, a single woman, struggled to build a successful winery in her family’s ancestral country house in Barbaresco. She was alone, she had few allies, and many saboteurs. Her wine is internationally recognized and her life has blossomed as she never thought it would.
To the west in Barolo, the very young Chiara Boschis convinced her father to purchase a winery after a centuries-old farming family ran out of male heirs in 1981. Today, the gutsy, beloved woman who never spent a day as an oenology student is one of Barolo’s most notable winemakers – male or female.
Isabella Oddero of Poderi e Cantine Oddero originally chose a career in international marketing, far away from her family’s generations-old winery in Barolo.
But the deep instinct that keeps Piemontese families together brought her back to help save and contribute to the patrimony that generations of her grandmothers had helped to create. Family, wine, land: the youngest, like Isabella, hear the call as plainly as their ancestors did.
These women, their Piemontese sisters — and the men and children in their lives — are real people who want you to know where they came from and who they are. What began as a modest effort to write about the families I knew best exploded into an odyssey of over 200 hours of interviews and countless email exchanges with members of 22 families. I was given access to private histories, family photos, and I was given trust – most precious of all.
“This book IS a labor of love, for the author and her subjects. You can sense it on every page. But most of all, this book records the spirit of what fuels wine. It’s an essential contribution that helps to fill the gaps in the history of wine. It’s essential, especially, for those of us who love what wine brings to our lives.” ~ Cathy Huyghe, wine industry journalist and author of “Hungry for Wine: Seeing the World Through the Lens of a Wine Glass”
“Thank you for your incredible work. I can really feel your love for the story of our region. We could not ask for more.” ~ Isabella Boffa Oddero, Poderi e Cantine Oddero
My determination to share these stories with the world before more of the wine family elders died drove me to create my own publishing company. The slow machinations of traditional publishing were not for me. Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte is the flagship publication of Under Discovered Publishing LLC in Vail, Colorado. The stories of wine families across the world are still to be told and Under Discovered will produce them.
Labor of Lovewill be a beautiful 9-1/4” x 11-1/2” (23.5 cm x 29 cm), 320-page hardcover, jacketed book containing 22 chapters about the wine families, plus an introductory chapter on Giulia Colbert Falletti, the Marchesa di Barolo, considered to be the mother of modern day Barolo wine. It will look like a coffee table book, but read like a novel. The chapters were written to be read independently, but will captivate readers such that they may find it hard to put down this treasure.
Each chapter begins with a genealogy of the family to provide a generational roadmap for the reader, particularly useful for those families with more than eight generations on the land they now farm.
The chapters, based on interviews I conducted with families and individuals, are beautifully designed to draw readers into this special world – a centuries-old agrarian life committed to family and land and wine.
The book is filled with vibrant, captivating color photographs of landscapes and family members…
…and family photos from generations past
Each chapter ends with an overview of the family’s winery to give readers a feel for the size, age, and location of each winery.
My Stalwart Team
Independently publishing a book of this magnitude and superb quality – worthy of the families who placed their sacred trust in me – required that I assemble a team of high-caliber editorial and design professionals.
PHOTOGRAPHERS: In the final year of Labor of Love’s development, my trio of photographers from Alba, Italy, in the heart of Piemonte – Pierangelo Vacchetto and his daughter, Elisabetta, and son, Eugenio, all Piemontesi themselves – traveled about the Langhe, Roero, and Monferrato wine producing areas to capture real life photographs of the 22 wine families.
EDITOR: Elatia Harris, my developmental and conceptual editor, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is a writer and editor with a long list not only of publications about food and culture but also of satisfied clients, including myself.
COPY EDITOR: Jody Berman of Berman Editorial in Boulder, Colorado, an editor, writer, proofreader, and publishing consultant, performed the final copyediting of Labor of Love.
DESIGNER: Cindi Yaklich of Epicenter Creative in Boulder, Colorado, put her more than 30 years of experience to work designing the entire book. Her front cover design is a mesmerizing representation of the love and tenderness inherent in the hard work done by the wine family women in their vineyards.
And what will readers get for my labor of love?
Do you know families who live far, far away, making their living from the land in a remote and beautiful place? Making one of civilization’s highest gifts, vintage after vintage, for hundreds of years? Have you listened to the voices of women reared in tradition as they assume leadership and experience their power for the very first time?Labor of Love delivers these behind-the-label stories, in the words of wine family members who have lived the life up to now known to so few. There is harsh labor, there is a far-seeing vision, and there is splendor in stories like these.
How Clotilde Rey, the mountain village schoolteacher, understood finance and risk, and became a revered Gaja matriarch
How Carla Oddero, the pharmacist, made years of real estate investments to bless her family with cru vineyards
How La Mej, a gutsy young woman from Canale who started working as a child of nine, lifted her family from deep rural poverty and created a winery that her descendants run today as Monchiero Carbone
How Super Nonno, the patriarch of the Grasso family of Cà del Baio, inspired his three adoring granddaughters to join the family winery
How Cornelia Cigliuti chased pesky chickens in her vineyards, making a diversion to save her family and partisans they protected from the Black Shirt fascists on the Bricco di Neive.
You can see the unique and characteristic stories emerging from my labor of love. You can feel my sense of mission. As I write this very day, Piemonte wine families are taking the night watch to keep the caterpillars from destroying the tender buds on their vines. Their labor never ends.
Bringing my labor to life
Printing and binding, the next step in bringing Labor of Love to life, is now in the hands of VeronaLibri, a leading printer of art and museum books based in Verona, Italy, a city where books were first published over 500 years ago. The first printing is 2,000 copies. An additional 1,000 copies may be ordered shortly after publication.
The publication date of Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte is set for June 2, 2016, in Barbaresco, Italy.
Want to support the next step of bringing these wonderful stories to a wider audience across the globe? Go to my Kickstarter project page and check out the great rewards available to supporters, including books (free shipping and reduced prices available in US and Italy, respectively), unique items featuring the copyrighted cover art, and exclusive Piemontese wine family experiences.
Twelve hour days, seven days a week over the last two months slowed me down a bit in keeping my loyal readers apprised of the final stages of writing and producing my first book. It’s time to announce the Labor of Love Barbaresco families that were so gracious to open up their lives to me. Barbaresco – specifically at Cà del Baio in Treiso – is where “Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte” will launch on June 2, 2016.
On February 19, the photographs, primarily from Pierangelo Vacchetto and his daughter, Elisabetta, and son, Eugenio, traveled through cyberspace to Verona, Italy where VeronaLibri will begin the process of preparing the photos for print. Now comes the final, nerve-wracking days of the last proofreading, fact-checking, and lots of prayers before designer Cindi Yaklich of Epicenter Creative in Boulder, Colorado, hits the button to send the completely designed 9.25″ x 11.5″ (23.5 cm x 29 cm), 320 page book to Verona.