Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte, by Suzanne Hoffman
A Book Review
Some of you know my tagline of my personal blog is “Between Colorado, Italy, and a Wine Glass.” For a few years I tried to figure out how to split my life between the two. Needless to say, discovering this latest book by a Colorado author about Italy was like coming home to both, albeit in a wine glass. The book that captured my heart this last week is Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte. There have been many wine books under my nose these past couple of years. Yet, after my final WSET Level 4 Diploma exam in June swore off them this summer for a much-needed break.
This book, however, is unlike any other wine book in my cork dork arsenal. Needless to say I fell off the “no wine books this summer” wagon.
Family heirloom sepia photos, gorgeous photography of fog-enrobed vineyard hills, and multi-generational family portraits are generously stationed throughout the book. Seriously – photos on nearly every page – invite you in and make you want to stay. I might add a bottle of each producer’s wine is a must-sip for each chapter of this must-read book.
Brazen sacrifices, romance, victories, stories once shared only verbally, are now carefully and lovingly written. Suzanne is the trusted voice of these families and recorder of these treasures. We are so fortunate she now shares them with us. In a respectful and appreciative voice Suzanne preseves history for future generations. These are the precious family legacies of some of the world’s most cherished wine producers.
It’s safe to say, Val hasn’t gotten this excited about a wine book since Wine and War and Champagne. Suzanne Hoffman’s first book, however, earns its place on that massive level of contribution to wine history. Most certainly Beatrice Rizzolio, Giulia Colbert Faletti, and Clotilde Valente Raimondo are now, on paper, occupying places of honor alongside their heavily documented wine family sisters, Louise Pommery, Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin Cliquot, and Lilly Bollinger. If these ladies are not somewhere in the hallowed halls of wine legends sharing glasses and toasting I’d be very surprised.
Suzanne has made history, I believe. She honors the survival stories, the grinta (grit) and courage during war. Current political and cultural situations are also recognized, as is a look toward the future. The Piemonte zeitgeist of grape growing and wine making of the last couple of centuries is poured into the present day. Pride, joy, the deep-seated love for not only their own families, but their country, community, livelihood transcend generations. All of this is celebrated in the bottle today and translated through these chapters.
I once wrote, “I always had this feeling that when I opened a bottle of Italian wine that what came out was so much more – tradition, passion, and I had to know what the allure was. ” Suzanne’s tender retelling of wine family secrets in Labor of Love give us more insight into that allure in 300 pages. A bonus, of course, is a Table of Contents that reads like a Piemonte collector’s cellar inventory.
In all fairness, this is probably more of a book celebration than a review from a wine lover and Italofile – I’m half Italian, so I kind of dig “my people.” I can feel through this book the passion and determination that brings good wine to the table and families and friends around it.
Fortunately, I also attended one of Suzanne’s author events. We pensively sipped the wines of another resolute woman, Ornella Correggia. Suzanne read from her journal the entry that started the whole endeavor. She spoke of her experiences with people in the book as they became more like family. Suzanne told us, “Many people thought this would be a little book. That’s not how I do things.” I silently toasted to that sentiment and felt the book’s weight cozily on my lap.
If you can, get thee to a Labor of Love author event near you. Perhaps your city hasn’t scheduled one yet? Well, Suzanne can probably remedy that, as it’s the full experience that brings this labor of love full circle.
Contact her here:
Wine Two Five Podcast interview with Suzanne: