Mani femminili: the hands of women in Piemonte

… I know. I know. It’s been way too long since I have given you guys anything fun to read. My last post was before Valentine’s Day, which was ages ago! But as soon as I finished that, I spent all of my free time in February studying for my WSET case study exam. Then  I used up the month of March by writing my WSET research paper. Mid-April I hopped on a plane for a whirlwind trip of Sicily (more on that later!). As soon as I was home, unpacked, and filled full of my California fare of sunshine, redwood trees, sprouts, and tofu, I am back in Italy!

I am here for my third go-around of Nebbiolo Prima, exploring the just-released Barolo 2012, Barbaresco 2013, and Roero 2013, as well as Riservas from older vintages. Last weekend I participated in Orrizonte Nizza, an exploration of the Nizza area of Asti, where Nizza Barbera earned its DOCG status with the 2014 vintage. (More stories to come there as well!)

Last Tuesday I successfully got through an afternoon without falling asleep! Blind tastings of about 100+ wines in the mornings led to spontaneous napping in the afternoon, which caused me to be up during the night, and then tired all day and, well the cycle started again each morning … but I broke it on the fifth day of the trip because there was a chance to investigate older vintages of Barolo and Barbaresco dating back to 2001, produced predominantly by Piemontese women.

Isabella of Oddero and Maya representing Josetta Saffirio
Isabella of Oddero and Maja representing Josetta Saffirio

Piemonte men historically have controlled the wine scene but these womens’ strength, tenacity, intelligence, and diligence has led them to the top of the industry. It was with great pleasure that I could explore some of the special wines they so graciously provided.

First I explored the 2004 vintage, tasting Barolo from Josetta Saffirio, Oddero, Ciabot Berton, and Barbaresco wines from Punset, Albino Rocca, Ca’ del Baio, and Cascina delle Rose. Overall the Barbarescos from 2004 showed more fruit, freshness, and vivacity, while the Barolo wines from that vintage were starting to show tertiary signs (stewed tomatoes, mushrooms). I enjoyed most the 2004s from Oddero (Bussia Vigna Mondoca), Josetta Saffirio (PersieraPunset (Campo Quadro), Albino Rocca (Ronchi), Ca’ del Baio (Pora), and Cascina delle Rose (Rio Sordo).

Marina Marcarino of Punset
Marina Marcarino of Punset
Paola & Federica of Ca' del Baio
Paola & Federica of Ca’ del Baio

From Ciabot Berton, I loved the 2003 Riserva and 2007 Barolos. I appreciate that they do fermentation and maceration in cement; it really shows through in the wines. The freshness of fruit that comes as a result allow the wines to fully express Nebbiolo’s elegance and individual sense of place.

Ciabot Berton Barolo from the Santa Maria frazione of La Morra
Ciabot Berton Barolo from the Santa Maria frazione of La Morra
Paola of Ciabot Berton and Chiara of E. Pira & Figli
Paola of Ciabot Berton and Chiara of E. Pira & Figli
Cannubi Barolo from Chiara Boschis
Cannubi Barolo from Chiara Boschis

Chiara’s Cannubi Barolos perfectly reflect their respective vintages. 2008 shows seamless balance, integration, and potential while the 2009 Cannubi is generous with its fruit but also powerful in structure. Both are full of life and will endure many years to come.

The following wines were also all showing quite well!

Oddero Barolo Bussia Vigna Mondoca 2001, Barolo Bussia Vigna Mondoca Riserva 2008, 2010.

Punset Barbaresco 2001, Barbaresco Basarin 2007, Barbaresco Campo Quadro 2009, and Barbaresco Basarin 2010. I love the fresh herbal and peppery quality in Marina’s wines.

Albino Rocca Barbaresco 2002, Barbaresco Ronchi 2007, 2010, and Barbaresco Angelo 2013.

Ca’ del Baio Barbaresco Vallegrande 2005, 2008, and Barbaresco Asili 2010.

To learn more about the lives and stories of these remarkable Piemontese women and others, I encourage you to check out my friend, Suzanne Hoffman’s book, Labor of Love, which will be released in just a couple of weeks on June 2, 2016. For ongoing updates on her work, please visit her website, Wine Families of the World.

You may be interested as well in my perspective on the topic five years ago in 2011. As time has passed, even in five years, women have gained more important roles in Piemonte and moreover (and more importantly) I have met more influential women and developed more intricate relationships with the women I wrote about back then, realizing that the situation isn’t as grim as I once thought. Thank goodness!



3 thoughts on “Mani femminili: the hands of women in Piemonte

  1. It would be very interesting to compare the characteristics of wine produced by women to wine produced by men, from the same / similar vineyard and grape. Especially in a country whose culture still has rigorously-defined male and female roles. Another idea would be to compare Barolo wines from pre-Barolo Boys era, to current production. You’d have to have access to library wines for sure, and compare across similar growing conditions.

    1. Comparing wine made by women vs men from the same vineyard could be interesting for sure. That might take some time as more and more women winemakers make their marks on Piemonte. While comparing Barolo from the Pre-Barolo Boys era to the post-Barolo Boys era carries with it the bias that the former will have been aged so much longer than the latter, at least I did do a comparison of winemaking techniques from deep in the Barolo Boys era (the 1990’s) to the Barolo wines now (as the shift back to “traditional” methods sweeps over all producers) in my Wine & Spirits article published last summer, Barolo in the 21st Century
      (full article available in print or by subscription).

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