Giacomo Oddero: The Future of Wine Belongs to the Young
- Written by Pietro Ramunno
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Wine maker Giacomo Oddero is a Piemontese DOC man -- born and bred in the territory -- with great knowledge and passion for the wines of his land.
Giacomo Oddero has fought not a few battles in the name of quality in agricultural production. He began as Assessor of Agriculture for the Province of Cuneo in the 1970s, signing his approval on classification disciplines for nearly all goods cultivated and produced in the region: from wines to cheese, from the Langa hazelnut to the vegetables planted in rows on the flat lands.
His passion for viticulture can be seen in the Poderi Oddero wineries in Santa Maria di La Morra, where his daughter Maria Cristina oversees the company activities. This is Giacomo Oddero, Piemontese DOC -- born and bred in this territory -- with his great knowledge and passion for the wines of his land.
"I'm an old wine maker with two daughters and three wonderful nieces and nephews. I survived the 80s and I'm still alive and kicking. I can quote the classics and I read them often: Shakespeare, Manzoni, Pavese, and Fenoglio. I take care of myself and nurture my hobbies, and I've got quite a long life at my back, full of vineyards, wine making, and defending the quality of Italian wine and the hills where it's produced. This, it seems, was a winning choice. And we've all come out on top: Italian wines are appreciated in all the world, now. It wasn't an easy beginning, and the current crisis seems to have brought many stale points to the table. But its story teaches us that today's difficulties are small compared to the wine world we had to face in the past that went through late blight and phylloxera.
"On my nightstand is one of Fantini's works written at the end of the 1800s that talks about the history of viticulture in the province of Cuneo. It's quite an interesting read: the dynamics that he describes from over a century ago are not so different from those of today – with one difference. After such a long time, we've acquired a dignified well-being, which we would like to maintain. Our sector is self-sufficient on some levels, but the world is global, so when the economic crisis bites, the wine world feels it too."
What do you think we can expect for the future of the wine in this territory?
"The future belongs to the young, you should ask them! In any case, mine is a message of hope: Today's difficulties are easily overcome ... there are clouds on the horizon, but I can already see clear skies. Those who cultivate the land are tough, if they know how to respond to it ...
"The key words to use if we want recovery from the economic crisis are "quality" and "innovation." As for the first, it's irrefutable that we've come a long way from DOC and DOCG recognition to the Alba Vigneti constitution (Ed. note: an official documentation of all DOC- and DOCG-destined vineyards). If we had started by focusing on quantity instead, we would have lost to Veneto and Sicily a long time ago. Now, that we've acquired the certifications, we need to focus out attention on the cru: we need defined rules to create and maintain unique identities. Our wines have specific virtues and defects: if they're high in tannins, it's because they're Piemontese! It's known that our wines get better with age, that there's no hurry to drink them. And we need a cautious vision of the future, in a way that the request is always slightly lower than the offer. In addition, it's indispensable that we recognize the wine maker for the work that he does."
I'd like to point out the Alta Langa, whose people are only growing older ... there's a lot of space for entrepreneurs in viticulture.
Tell us about the importance of innovation.
I taught my niece Isabella about the harvest, and she can navigate the vineyards on her computer. The first time I flew to New York, my legs shook; today, young people are used to flying from one continent to another. Or another example: I remember the first naive ad that my grandfather wrote in 1911, in a newspaper column entitled, "Remembrances of the District of Alba," and now I think of all the instruments and new technologies that exist today for promotion ... the possibilities are endless.
“We need to put young people into play, who are able to take intelligent risks: 50 years ago, the industrial revolution did the same thing to my generation and to those who dared to resist the siren call of the city in order to stay and work the earth. I'd like to point out the Alta Langa, whose people are only growing older: whoever discovers this land today can easily restructure a farmhouse to make it their second home, and there's a lot of space for entrepreneurs in viticulture. Think of the Alta Langa DOC, already recognized and respected, but with still an enormous potential. Its wines could become a point of reference for both the Italian market and abroad, but as of yet its vineyards are still too few.
Beyond the world of wine in its strictest sense, there is another industry that we weren't aware of: tourism. In just Alba and Bra, there are five thousand employed in the field. Even without tourism structures, it has taken off in this province; over time, investments were made, and now the numbers are encouraging, but there is a lot to be done yet. Perhaps by focusing on an enlarged vision of the territory, without spoiling the hills and their natural beauty."
If our wines are high in tannins, it's because they're Piemontese! It's known that our wines get better with age, that there's no hurry to drink them.
Speaking of hills, what kind of rapport do you have with this land?
"I'm a little bit chauvinistic when it comes to them ... But if you come and visit us, we can taste wine together and we'll tell you the story of our family that has cultivated these hills since the 1700s. We produce only wine, but we sell poetry. Come and appreciate the heat of our earth, the freshness of the wine cellar, and the warmth of our hospitality, and you'll see that we're honored to show you our winery."
Giacomo Oddero was born in La Morra in 1926. Throughout his career holding several important offices in his hometown and in larger county counsels, including Mayor of La Morra, chair of the Chamber of Commerce of Cuneo, and head of the Board of Directors of the Savings Bank of Cuneo, he was an important part of touristic and territorial development of the Upper and Lower Langhe. A great lover of cheeses and truffles, Oddero is also the founder and first President of ONAF (National Cheese Tasting Organization), as well as the creator and President of the National Center for the Study of Truffles.
Watch our wine tasting video of Barolo DOCG with Isabella Oddero!