Italian Women In Wine: Paola Abrigo from Azienda Agricola Abrigo Giovanni

Paola Abrigo with her sons and husband

Paolo Abrigo comes from another area of Piedmont that I have not yet had the pleasure to explore. It’s called Diano d’Alba. I came to Paola through a woman in the wine industry whose name I carried in my pocket for many years – Stefania Tacconi. She does not know that her name was in my wallet for a long time. I had literally been given her name maybe 20 years before I ever really interacted with her. When I first got into the wine business, I believe she worked for the Brunello di Montalcino consortium. I either lived in Florence or had just moved to Milan and started studying wine and someone we know in common suggested I reach out to her. I never did and after some years, she left the Consortium and ended up at a PR company and we came into contact.

This is a long-winded way of starting the conversation about Paola Abrigo from Azienda Agricola Abrigo Govanni and is just a sign of both how long I have been interested in the wine world, and how interconnected the Italian wine world turns out to be.

Paola was born into the wine industry she told me in a recent instagram chat. She is the daughter of grape farmers. She hails from Moscato not from Diano d’Alba where her winery is today. Growing up she helped her parents in the fields and she told me at 15 she began to keep the books for her dad. Her parents were somewhat sharecroppers although the term in Italian was fattore or someone who did everything on the land of the local Count. She said the count eventually also asked her to work on parts of keeping accounts for his wines too.

Grapes from Abrigo Giovanni

She later went to school to study and got a degree in agriculture which is where she met her husband, Giovanni. She said her father was disappointed that she continued to work in the wine industry. Having been a farmer himself, he knew how hard one had to work if working on the land and wanted a different profession for his daughter.

Paola on the other hand, told me she loved the world of wine and wanted nothing more than to be in the business. Her husband’s family had a winery that was specialized in both wines from the area such as Dolcetto which is very prestigious when it comes from Diano d’Alba where it obtained DOCG status, Barbera and white grapes such as Favorita and Arneis as well as Noccioleti di Piemonte which are a protected type of hazelnut.

Paola is involved in both businesses and two of her three children work in the business as well. Since both sons are involved, she told me they bought a vineyard in the Ravera MGA and are making Nebbiolo based wines – Barolo. She said this was a very large investment for the family but they are super pleased with the result.

The Ravera MGA which Paola said is large includes some of the most celebrated areas in Piedmont. Paola said her vineyard is in Novello. I spoke about Ravera when I wrote about Sara Vezza recently. Having spoken with so many women from Piedmont in a short period of time who span around 30 years of history if not more, it’s clear that women have always worked in the family farms in Piedmont. I was and am surprised how many women from Piedmont there are in these companies and I am going to try to understand if there are more women in the industry in Piedmont than in other parts of the country.

Vineyards

Diano d’Alba is in the province of Cuneo. Cunei is in Western Piedmont on the border of France and Liguria. Someone very close to my heart comes from Cuneo but I have not yet visited this lovely town.

Cuneo is in the Southwest of Piedmont and borders France and Liguria. Cuneo is very well known as the home of many famed Italian chocolate makers. Paola and her family sell their hazelnuts to Ferrero. Ferrero as you may or may not know makes Nutella, the chocolate spread that has taken America by storm.

The town itself is a small one with less than 4000 people. Dolcetto is the grape that they are most well known for and it reached the DOCG level recognition in 2010. The vineyards are all at around 500-550 meters above sea level. The soils here are calcareous soils with some sand and tufa. The vineyards are all facing South-West.

Dolcetto wines are incredibly friendly and usually easy to drink wines that range in price from around $16-25 dollars when from this prized zone or one of the other two well known areas for this grape – Ovada or Dogliani.

Barbera and Barolo

I was lucky enough to receive two wines from Paola, their Barolo and a Barbera. Both were lovely and typical expressions of their respective grapes. The Barbera Superior from Diano D’Alba was gorgeous on the nose and palate with fresh red fruit and floral aromas. I got loads of forest floor, bramble and herbs with notes of something balsamic on the finish. This was a big bold Barbera, with 15.5%. The Barolo from the Ravera MGA was elegant and refined with violet and rose coming through first followed by fruit and some spice, with earthly notes in a second wave. Long and nuanced, this wine is beautiful today and has a long life ahead. I can’t wait to try her other wines one day too.

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