Vail Symposium goes beyond the bottle
with the Chiara Boschis
Suzanne Hoffman, author of award-winning “Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte,” will moderate the event
VAIL, Colo. – June 30, 2017 – There are few liquids more complex than wine. Each bottle of wine is unique, reflecting the terroir in which it was grown, the process in which it was made and the people who watched over it every step of the way. On Tuesday, July 11, guests will be able to go beyond the story that is told on the wine label and hear, firsthand, from Chiara Boschis, one of the Piemonte’s region’s most fascinating winemakers.
Barolo winemaker Chiara Boschis’ family history is as deep and rich as the soil in which her grapes grow. It includes a riveting story involving the German occupation of Piemonte, Italy during World War II and, later, the exchange of young prisoners from Barolo for an entire vintage of a precious wine.
Suzanne Hoffman, author of award-winning Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte, has come to know Boschis well through the writing of her book and her visits to the region. As Hoffman leads the conversation, Boschis will talk about the deep history of her family, her winery and her own growth as a farmer, a defender of nature, a winemaker and a daughter. This is a rare opportunity to have a very personalized interaction with one of the leading vintners in the world.
“Personally, I want people to see a real winemaker, a farmer as she delights in saying, not a pop culture version that we see on TV and in magazines,” Hoffman said. “I want people to hear directly from this vibrant, passionate woman what it takes to balance the demands of the global wine market, which means traveling frequently and also welcoming clients to Barolo; the day-to-day operations of the winery cellar and the vineyards and the job she loves the most, caring for her 90-year-old father, revered Barolo vintner, Franco Boschis.”
Boschis is widely recognized as one of the first women producers in Barolo, although she comes from eight generations of winemakers. In 1981, the Boschis family acquired the E. Pira e Figli estate, occupying some of the most prestigious land in Barolo. In 1990, Chiara Boschis took over the operation on her own, bringing dedication, charm, patience and determination to every aspect of production in order to raise the quality and image of the winery to that which it enjoys today. In 2010, her younger brother Giorgio joined her, contributing a wealth of experience both in the vineyards as well as in the cellar.
“My goal is to introduce Chiara through my Q&A with her, but then to open up the floor for questions from the audience,” Hoffman said. “She can talk the legs off a coffee table — people hang on to every word she says — and she will love interacting with the audience. People will not want this to end. I also want people to leave with a deep appreciation of the hard work and manual labor that goes into producing a bottle of wine.”
As a winemaker, Boschis is a master of balance, crafting finessed and sophisticated wines that are some of the most aromatically dynamic expressions of Barolo today. But she is a farmer first, dedicating herself to the philosophy that quality begins in the vineyard where her impact on the environment is greatest.
“This program provides a wonderful opportunity for our community to get up close and personal with Chiara and hear her story,” said Kris Sabel, executive director of the Vail Symposium. “So often these events are wine tasting dinners which, while satisfying, can be quite expensive and focus more on the individual wines and food pairings than on the personal story of the winemaker, her love of the land and history of the people who have been creating amazing wine for centuries.”
The doors will open at 6:30 p.m. and feature a reception where attendees can purchase and sample Boschis’s wine. After the program, Boschis and Hoffman will be signing copies of Hoffman’s award-winning book, “Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte” will be on sale at a special price of $48 (regular retail price is $55) plus tax with $5 of every purchase benefitting the Vail Symposium.
If you go…
What: Beyond the Bottle
With: Barolo winemaker Chiara Boschis; moderated by Suzanne Hoffman, author of “Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte”
Cost: $25 online before 2 p.m. on the day of the event, $35 at the door, $10 students and teachers
More info: Visit www.VailSymposium.orgor call 970.476.0954 to register. Attendees should utilize public parking structures. Summer parking is free in the Vail and Lionshead parking structures.
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About Vail Symposium
Over the past 45 years, the Vail Symposium has touched thousands of lives with its rich and varied history. Created in 1971, the Symposium was conceived by community leaders to create ideas and goals, attracting not only the majority of townsfolk but also policy shapers from across the state and nation. Throughout the years we have diversified and expanded our scope with a dedication to education and cultural programs which provide lifelong learning opportunities for everyone who lives in or visits our community. The Vail Symposium is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
Media Contact: Katie Coakley
Reading Jill Barth’s delightful post about G. D. Vajra in Barolo made me home-away-from-home-sick for Piemonte. It’s a common experience for me, particularly when I recall the vivid image of Francesca Vaira bathed in the ethereal blue light the stained glass windows create as she describes to visitors the alchemy of fermentation that occurs in the room each autumn. Franciscan priest Fr. Costantino Ruggeri’s spectacular stained glass windows at G. D. Vajra complement the art that is the Vaira family’s wine.
No visit to the Vairas’ winery is complete without a walk through the tank room, with its towering stainless steel tanks where fermentation occurs, and the 26-foot-high stained glass windows the late Catholic priest and renowned artist, Father Costantino Ruggeri(1925-2007) created for his close friends, the Vairas. The tall, narrow windows with glass of varying shades of blue and splashes of other bright colors create a spiritual feeling inside the otherwise utilitarian space. The room is bathed in an azure blue light during the day, leaving no question that spirituality, faith, and a respect for nature and its Creator dominate the philosophy of this family in all they do. Everyone who works inside the room values the natural light from outside that creates the soothing blue hue reminiscent of bluebird skies on a clear autumn day. I’m told Aldo and Milena began dreaming of the stained glass windows in 1985. When asked why they installed these precious works of art in the winery, Aldo’s answer summed up the family’s philosophy of life and work. He said, “We always felt deeply that wine is a message of beauty and we would like all details, all actions, and all spaces of our work to resonate this beauty.” Aldo said that during the harvest, when so much work is done in the room through the night, the light from inside floods the exterior area in the same blue light workers inside enjoy during the day. In a later conversation, Francesca Vaira said, “The windows show a connection between the vineyards where the grapes grow and the room where they are transformed into wine.” I love that room and visit it often, albeit usually in my mind.
A visit to G. D. Vajra in Vergne, a tiny frazione of Barolo perched above the iconic wine village, provides nourishment for the soul as well as the senses thanks in large part to Padre Costantino’s magnificant windows. Come for the wine, stay for the art.
It has certainly been a momentus year for Barolo with the sale of a historic winery in Castiglione Falletto to an American businessman. Yes, it was definitely their choice to sell and no doubt a painful decision to make. For the good of the region and the selling family, we wish them all well.
But as the year winds down and rumors of a more painful sale of another Barolo family-owned winery — one not in my book! — fly everywhere, I opened Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonteto read again, and find reassurance in, the passionate words of Elisa Scavino of Azienda Viticola Paolo Scavino when I asked her about the possibility of the “Tuscanization” of Piemonte. Hers was not a unique answer to this question I asked of many families.
So, will iconic Barolo wineries remain in the hands of the Piemontese or end up owned by faceless, souless foreign corporations? No one really knows. The economy and financial considerations may be what dictate the future. What I do know is that I am even more dedicated to hearing the wine families’ stories and committing them to paper for all to read in years to come. Their history must not be forgotten.
Post Script (12/5/16): As the rumors of a seismic sale swirl around the hills of Barolo, it has become painfully apparent that the low birth rate in Italy (and all of Europe) could be the catalyst for sales now and in the future. If readers look at the genealogies of each of the 22 families in my book, they will see an unmistakeable thinning of generations over time, the reasons for which are many.
Of course, it only takes one to carry the estate forward into the next generation. However, when there are so few offspring — as we’ve seen in so many of wine families across Italy — the future of the estate as a family owned and operated entity relies on a near 100% occurance of the same passion to perpetuate the patrimony in future generations.
I’m optimistic that will be the case with the current generation of wine family women of Piemonte. Beyond the horizon, it’s anyone’s guess.
It’s that time of the year again. Harvest is underway throughout the Northern Hemisphere, a signature agricultural and cultural event for wine countries. In Italy, it’s also time for Gambero Rosso’s annual Anteprima Tre Bicchieri , the announcement of the wines that garnered the coveted Three Glasses from the respected Italian Wine Guide.
This year, nine of the recipients were wine families from my book, Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte:
These wines represent Gambero Rosso’s recognition of excellence in the Italian wine industry, but one stands out with particular poignancy this year — Albino Rocca 2013 Barbaresco Angelo. The wine is made from Nebbiolo grapes from vines ranging in age from 20 to 70 years from the Ronchi and Ovello vineyards of Barbaresco and Montersino vineyard in San Rocco Seno d’Elvio.
Appropriately named for the late, esteemed Barbaresco producer Angelo Rocca who perished on October 8, 2012, this is the first vintage his three daughters — Daniela, Monica, and Paola — and his son-in-law, Carlo Castellengo, faced alone without his presence during the entire growing season and wine production. Or perhaps he was present in their hearts and all of those who knew him then and who have come to know him through his family’s wines.
In memory of Angelo, and all the vintners who once walked Piemonte’s vineyards their descendants now tend, I would like to share excerpts from the Albino Rocca family’s chapter in Labor of Love.
October is a celebratory time in Piemonte’s wine country.
Months of sleepless nights and worried gazes at dark, stormy horizons are put to rest until the next growing season as grapes come home to cantine (wineries) for the next phase of the vintage. Regardless of the quality of a vintage, joy and relief are common emotions throughout the region. But in the autumn of 2012, one week after the harvest ended, sadness, shock, and despair struck like a dagger in the collective heart of the Langhe and devastated a renowned winemaking family. It did not, however, destroy it, thanks to three talented, determined women.
On October 8, 2012, shrouded in the dense autumn fog so common in Northern Italy, the ultralight plane Angelo Rocca piloted fell to the ground shortly after takeoff near Alessandria. The crash, just 45 minutes east by car from Angelo’s home near the village of Barbaresco, took the life of the highly respected vintner and his companion, Carmen Mazza. Although many feared the fatal crash spelled doom for the winery bearing his father Albino’s name, Angelo’s vision and talent were not entirely extinguished. He had passed those on to his three daughters, Daniela, Monica, and Paola, and they would ensure that his light continued to shine across Barbaresco as a beacon to the wine world far beyond the hills of Piemonte.
Had the crash occurred 60 years earlier, without male heirs, the Albino Rocca winery as a family enterprise could have been doomed. Vineyards sold. Cantina shuttered. Not so today, when women routinely assume control of family wineries upon the passing of a patriarch. Fate had both taken one of Barbaresco’s leading visionaries from his family and the wine world and brought Angelo’s three daughters to work with him in the winery in the final years of his life. Their decision to join their father and perpetuate the Rocca family’s legacy proved lucky, even though they never imagined they would assume control of the winery so early in their lives.
Angelo died exactly when many considered him at the pinnacle of his profession. His wines were routinely lauded as some of the best in the region. His affable personality, reflected in his beautiful wines, was enjoyed across the wine world. “How could three women who only recently joined their father at the winery continue his legacy?” people asked. To that skep-ticism, Monica said with a touch of defiance in her voice, “There was never any question that we would continue.”
The 2013 vintage was the family’s first Barbaresco release without Angelo. It belongs entirely to Daniela, Monica, Paola, and Carlo. The biggest change, they noted, is that before Angelo’s death, he and Carlo made all the winemaking decisions. Now, the four of them collaborate on important decisions as they continue the work of establishing their own vinous identity. “We make wines somewhat different because our tastes and likes are different than my father’s,” Daniela said. “Carlo is most important now at the winery because he is an alchemist and makes the amalgam of personalities and tastes.”
The future looks bright for Albino Rocca SSA, the name given to the winery once the bureaucratic wrangling was completed a year after Angelo’s death. Facing fierce global competition, the more than 100 producers in the denomination have recognized the need to collab-orate and share their experiences for the good of Barbaresco. Daniela is looking forward to a future that satisfies her strong desire to try new things. Her sisters share in that longing for new experiences they inherited from their father, along with his passion for the vine. They believe at one time Angelo wasn’t sure his daughters would continue the business, but they are confident that by the time he died, Angelo was happy having all three daughters with him in the winery. They took up his mantle far too early in their young lives when fate robbed them of many more years under their father’s tutelage. But they did it with grace and dignity, with the help of loved ones, their community, and their clients across the world, whose loyalty was readily transferred from Angelo to his daughters. Of course, credit should also be given to the strength of Piemonte’s women, which is embedded in their DNA. A bright future awaits the next generation of Rocca children should they wish to follow in their mothers’ footsteps.
Note: Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte (Under Discovered Publishing 2016) is my compilation of stories of the women of 22 wine families from the Roero, Monferrato, and Langhe areas of Piemonte. In Piemonte, the book is available through bookstores, enoteche, Cà del Baio and other producers in the book. In the USA, it is available on this website and through Amazon.
Tom Hyland’s new book, The Wines and Foods of Piemonte,provides Anglophone wine explorers with a comprehensive and insightful guide to the under-discovered northwest Italy region.
The Road Less Traveled
Author, freelance wine journalist, and diehard Italophile Tom Hyland’s first trip to Piemonte was in 2001, shortly after I first ventured south from Zurich to the splendid gastronomic region in northwest Italy. When the new millennium dawned, only dabs of ink had been spilled for Piemonte in Italian travel guides. It was as though the historic wine region, home of unified Italy’s first capital and one of the wine world’s most prestigious varietals, was an afterthought. Social media then consisted of actually communicating face-en-face and modern blogging was not yet common. Let’s just say, both of us, like many others traveling this under-discovered region, were left on own to figure out where to go, what to eat, and, most importantly, what to drink. Perhaps that was a good thing in retrospect, but not everyone has over a decade to get to know a place.
Today, nascent Piemontephiles, as well as seasoned wine explorers, have a wealth of information available in cyberspace and bookshops. The plethora of wine tourism blogs and the publication in my many languages of more books specifically about Piemonte have helped spark interest in the region. Tom Hyland’s latest book, The Wines and Foods of Piemonte (University of Nebraska 2016), is one of those and serves as a valuable addition to the resources available on Piemonte.
I met Hyland the same way I met my editor, Elatia Harris, and many others who helped me write, launch, and promote my own book: on Facebook. We were both in the throes of researching and writing books on Piemonte, only it was my first project and he was a seasoned pro. Hyland possessed something I lacked: a deep knowledge of Italian wines from all regions. Reading his posts on his blog, LearnItalianWines, helped me with my research. I’m a wine family expert; he’s a food and wine expert. We share the same passion for giving voice to the vintners to inform, educate, and inspire. I’m delighted he published his book this past summer — just a month after Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte — because the books are perfect companions.
Guiding Oenophiles Through Piemonte
In his introduction, Hyland declares his love of Piemonte and reverence for the families whose vines are anchored deep in its soil. The book opens with his admission that has “a love affair with Piemonte.” I know that feeling. It’s impossible not to love the region if you enjoy indulging in scrumptious food and wine and immersing yourself in the culture that is an integral part of its enjoyment.
“Piemonte,” he says, “is more of a destination for the serious wine and food lover.” Agreed. Perhaps this is why books like Hyland’s have been slow to evolve. The need was there, but the demand was slow to grow.
In The Wines and Foods of Piemonte, with the help of renowned vinous cartographer Alessandro Masnaghetti’s maps and Hyland’s own photos of places, faces, foods, and wines, he builds a perfect foundation for nascent Piemontephiles and adds to the knowledge base of those with years of experience in the region. Hyland’s lovely cover photo of the expansive beauty of the vineyards with the snow-capped Alps over 40 miles, yet seemingly a short away begs the reader to enter the book.
The heart of the book opens with a geographical explanation of Piemonte, the second largest region in Italy after Sicily. The four major wine districts are home to a wide variety of grapes, a distinctive feature of Piemonte’s viticulture. Hyland explains each zone, noting signature varietals such as Nebbiolo, Barbera, Dolcetto, and Arneis, and more obscure ones such as Pelaverga, Ruché, Freisa, and Grignolino. It’s far more than the “overview” he claims it is in his introduction.
Throughout the book, Hyland weaves quotes from and references to some of the region’s highly respected producers such as Mariacristina Oddero, Alessandro Ceretto, Angelo Gaja, Enrico Scavino and Giovanna Rizzolio, to name just a few. The effort to have the vintners speak for themselves was well spent since Hyland connects readers to them and transforms what could have been a dry recitation of technical aspects of viticulture into something far more engaging. Hyland’s photos that capture the vintners’ personalities, particularly the one of Mariacristina Oddero, add to the vintners’ words.
Hyland gives us further insight into the philosophies and passions of vintners with a section of interviews of distinguished vintners and — because food is the perfect partner of wine — notable chefs. Luca Pellegrino of Ristorante Le Torri in Castiglione Falletto, one of my favorite restaurants in the Langhe, answered Hyland’s question about unusual wine pairings with “salmon filet with a Barolo.” I must admit that I have tried that pairing at home and I loved it. I was delighted to see an interview with Dario Marini of il Fierobecco in Maggiora, a restaurant we discovered in 2015 on a visit to Lorella Zoppis Antoniolo in Alto Piemonte. A trip up the A26 from the UNESCO World Heritage site wine areas of Langhe, Roero, and Monferrato is well worth the drive to visit Antoniolo and dine at il Fierobecco.
Finally, Hyland’s four appendices provide very useful quick references for his highly recommended wines, recommended restaurants, a glossary of wine terms, and classic examples of Piemontese foods. Just what the savvy wine tourist needs at his or her fingertips while exploring the region.
There is no such thing as knowing everything there is to know about Piemonte. It’s such a beautiful, diverse region where opportunities for adventures are endless. Hyland’s book has broadened my knowledge of the vinous and culinary landscape of Piemonte, adding to what I’ve learned through my own 17 years of oenological experiences I’ve enjoyed there. The Wines and Foods of Piemonte is a great guide book for those making their first journey to Piemonte, a journey they will no doubt repeat many times.
The Wines and Foods of Piemonte is a small, softcover book that fits quite nicely into a carry-on to read on a transatlantic flight to Italy and to have handy on gastronomic explorations of this expansive region’s wine areas. It will certainly be with me on my next trip!
The Wines and Foods of Piemonte by Tom Hyland is available on his website and at the bookstores in Eataly locations in Chicago and New York City.
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.
The glue that has held cultures together through time has been food, most importantly the family meal. The energetic dynamic in the kitchen as the food is prepared is matched only by the enjoyment of traditional dishes shared around the dining table. I’ve been blessed to be a guest around several family tables in Piemonte which is a quite an honor and evidence of acceptance. Those are epicurean memories I shall cherish forever.
Given the beauty of the simplicity and flavors of the cucina piemontese, I asked some of my wine families to share with me their favorite recipes for traditional dishes. Silvia Altare, one of Lucia and Elio Altare‘s two daughters, shared with me her recipe for one of the classics of cucina piemontese – Vitello Tonnato.
I don’t just love vitello tonnato because it’s such a delicious dish, but it reminds me of the cultural importance of gumbo in bayou country Lousiana where I was born and raised. Everyone has their own twist on the dish and the recipe becomes part of a family’s heritage as it’s passed from generation to generation.
So here is Silvia’s recipe in her own words:
Silvia Altare’s Vitello Tonnato
I have learned cooking and from my mom and I love it!
Actually, both Elio and Lucia are good cooks. Lucia can set a wedding lunch for 30 people in 1 hour!
Here is the recipe of Vitello Tonnato, super quick and easy, everyone loves it. Even vitello tonnato sandwiches are a big deal here in my family, sometimes that’s what you get when you don’t have time to sit down for lunch!
1 big chunk of ”girello di vitello”, which I think translates in English with veal roast beef, to be either roasted in the oven or boiled with water and vegetables (carrots, celery, and onions)
The time of cooking is always suggested by the local butcher, very important you want the meat to stay pink inside.
Let it rest until cold, so any extra juice or blood is eliminated. When cold and dry then you can slice it very thin, if possible with a slicer.
2 eggs (1 yolk and 1 full egg)
Pinch of salt
Put eggs and salt in a mixer glass, and start mixing with an immersion blender, start adding the sunflower oil very little at a time, and you will see your mixture texture magically turn from liquid to thick. Keep adding oil until the quantity of mayo you want is made. Finish with a couple teaspoons of lemon juice. It adds a little acidity and makes the mayo taste “lighter”
(Wine buying note: In Colorado, Giuliana Importsrepresents the Altare family and many other Piemontese wine families. And they also import fabulous artisanal olive oils that are available direct to consumers.)
Suzanne’s Note – Silvia didn’t have any photos of her dish to share in time for me to post, so here is one of Villa Tiboldi’s Vitello Tonnato.
With 16 days left in myKICKSTARTER project, I thought today would be a great time for a sneak peek at this blessed vintner who is just a miracle or two away from sainthood.
The Last Marchesa of Barolo GIULIA COLBERT FALLETTI
With the reluctant permission of her husband and father, Giulia began to visit the prison frequently. The abuse she endured transformed into trust as Giulia befriended many women prisoners and led them to Christianity. Giulia traveled to England and across Europe to study the prison reforms that were under way. But it was not enough for Giulia to improve the hygiene and living conditions of the incarcerated women. She saw a dire need to provide the women with skills they needed to be able to contribute to society upon their release.
Giulia believed the cycle of poverty and sin these women endured had to be broken. She established a school for girls and women of all means to learn to sew and keep house. Giulia and Tancredi converted part of the ground floor of their grand Turin home into a kindergarten where working poor parents could leave their children in a safe environment to learn while they worked. Both within Turin and outside its gates, Giulia spread the love and money she could not lavish on her own children to those in need. By day, the ground floor of the Palazzo Barolo was a refuge and a place of hope for the needy, but when night fell, minds met above in Giulia’s salon.
In 1825, King Carlo Felice named Tancredi, who was then a state counselor, mayor of Turin. Tancredi’s piety and compassion for the poor and dispossessed that he shared with Giulia influenced his four-year tenure as mayor, during which time he pursued groundbreaking changes in Piemonte’s capital city. During the frigid winter of 1825 – 1826, Tancredi distributed bread and firewood to the poor. He established a bank for small savings and a free school for arts and artisanal crafts, paved roads, beautified the city with gardens and fountains, and pursued other projects to improve public hygiene and the well-being of Turin’s citizens.
Tancredi, like Giulia, was not content to provide the means for their charitable works. They were hands-on philanthropists. During the cholera outbreak of 1835, Tancredi fell seriously ill while caring for patients housed on the ground floor of the Palazzo Barolo. Three years later, upon the advice of her husband’s doctors, Giulia took Tancredi to the Veneto, where they believed the alpine air would aid his recovery. Tancredi fell seriously ill in Verona, so Giulia began the long trip home to Turin to arrange treatment for her husband. Alas, Tancredi never saw his beloved Turin again. On September 4, 1838, in Chiara, near Brescia in Lombardy, the last Marchese of the noble Falletti family of Barolo died in his wife’s arms.
Author’s note: I have Chiara Boschis of E. Pira e Figli to thank for the “introduction” to Giulia Falletti and Pierangelo Vacchetto for sharing his vast knowledge of Barolo’s history and the village’s beloved last Marchesa. Their contributions to my book – and my life – are precious to me.
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.
I began my journey to write “A Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte” when I discovered riveting stories about the courageous women of Piemonte. The first stories I heard were about Beatrice Rizzolio, grandmother of Giovanna Rizzolio of Cascina delle Rose. The courageous, brilliant woman is memorialized as a “savior” at Yad Vashem. Her designation as one of the Righteous Among the Nations came in 1975 in Rome for recognition of her courage in saving Jews during the Nazi occupation of Piemonte after the Italian armistice with the Allies on September 8, 1943.
Much is known about the courageous acts of women who fought as women partisans against the Nazis and fascisti. But what of the simple farmers who risked their lives and possessions to give aid and succor to the partisans? Little is known about them except for the stories families tell to each other and, occasionally, to an outsider like me.
One story of a courageous couple – Leone and Cornelia (Elia) Cigliuti – came to me through their granddaughter Claudia Cigliuti. The winemaking Cigliuti family has lived for centuries on the Bricco di Neive.
The bucolic vineyard-carpeted hill was once a hotspot of Autonomi partisan activity during the Nazi occupation between September 1943 and the end of the war in May 1945.
Sympathetic to the partisans, many farming families provided the partisans with shelter and food. This placed them in grave danger. Retribution for adding partisans was swift and brutal. But the courageous Piemontesi defied the occupiers and women like Elia Cigliuti were important civilian soldiers through their resistance.
One could say Elia owed her life to chickens. One day when Elia was outside her house, she saw a group of men walking up the road next to the family’s home. Knowing Fascist soldiers were nearby and thinking the men were partisans, she waved her arms and began to shout, “Go away! Go away!” Sadly, they were not partisans.
The Fascists ran to her, threatening her life as they demanded to know who she was trying to warn. With guns aimed at her and her life in the balance, the quick-thinking Elia pointed to the chickens in the vineyard. “I was shooing away the chickens so they wouldn’t eat the grapes!” she insisted. It wasn’t an easy sell.
Eventually, Elia convinced the gun-wielding soldiers the chickens were to blame for her shouting and nothing more. Truth is, chickens are just fine in vineyards and are considered valuable “vineyard workers” since they aerate the soil, eat insects and leave behind nitrogen rich “fertilizer.” Thanks, however, to the Cigliutis’ chickens that were in the right place at the right time, and to a lack of viticultural knowledge amongst the menacing fascists, Elia lived.
Not doubt stories like this abound. Unfortunately, they will fade from history unless shared. Hopefully, more wine families of the Langhe and Roero where partisan activity was fierce will commit to paper the stories of their ancestors’ aid for the cause of liberty.
Want to know more about Piemonte’s wine family women? Subscribe to my blog and stay up to date on the early summer 2016 release of my book “A Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte” and follow me on Wine Families of the World on Facebook.