In honor of Women's Month (can we all just agree that every month is women's month?), I wanted to present Suzanne Hoffman's incredible 15+ year research project on the wine family women of Piemonte, which was recently released in the form of a beautifully-detailed book aptly entitled Labor of Love. Many people have heard of the Barolo Boys phenomenon, the term given to a group of friends who revolutionized the production of Barolo — Piemonte's most famous wine — and brought it into the international spotlight in the 80s and 90s. However, what this title excludes is all the women who played pivotal roles and continue to do so in the history and culture of Piemonte, wine-making and otherwise. By highlighting the nurturing nature of Piemonte's wine family women across two hundred years, alongside their husbands, fathers, brothers, neighbors, Hoffman offers a thorough history/ herstory of this incredible wine region.
Here are short excerpts from Labor of Love on several of my favorite wine women in Piemonte:
Chiara Boschis of E. Pira & Figli + CHiara Boschis
GIVING BACK | Besides making world-renowned Barolos, Chiara Boschis has also spearheaded a consortium to revive the cheese-making traditions of Piemonte's cherished Castelmagno region. As one of her friends stated, recorded by Hoffman: 'Other winemakers may be passionate about wine, but Chiara's passions are so much broader, so much deeper. With Chiara it is her love of the area, the life it gives to her, and what she returns to it.'
Silvia Altare of Elio Altare
THE NEXT GENERATION | Between studying the Classics in high school and Economics at the University of Turin, as well as traveling to wine regions in France, California and Australia, Silvia returned home with a well-rounded education that would help advance her family's business. A funny anecdote as recounted by Hoffman: "Upon her university graduation in 2003, Silvia received a 'very nicely decorated envelope' from her father. As most 23-year-olds would think, Silvia wondered if the envelope contained money, a plane ticket for a post-university holiday, or a certificate for a nice dinner. The contents shocker her...It was a membership in the farmers' union. She was now officially a farmer. Thus began Silvia's life in her family's winery."
Giovanna Rizzolio of Cascina delle Rose
AGAINST THE ODDS | In her first years of making wine, not wanting to have a high overhead, Giovanna worked with a custom crush winery, which turned out to be corrupt — one year informing her that they would not make her wine just weeks before harvest. "To her rescue," as Hoffman writes, "like a knight on a white stallion — an appropriate description of the gallant marchese — came Alberto di Grésy. Alberto, the owner of the famed aristocratic Barbaresco winery, Marchesi di Grésy...lent Giovanna his first press, one he had since replaced, that sat idle in his winery. She made other quick, temporary renovations and finally was ready for the grapes to arrive from her vineyards."
With strength, determination, the support of their families and community, and a good deal of humor I must say, these Piemontese wine women are making their mark for generations to come.
Photo Excerpts from Labor of Love by Suzanne Hoffman:
Medieval Castles. White Truffles. Prized Barolos.
Need we say more?
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