Silvia Altare

Silvia Altare

Elio Altare (Barolo) (Enologa/Winemaker & Owner)

“Revolution is from wine being part of the culture.”

Silvia Altare, a young woman of great radiance, intelligence and wit, grew up in a wine family made famous by her father Elio, who in the mid-1970s was one of the “Barolo Boys” who dared make wine more like the French Burgundians. Elio and Lucia’s two children, Silvia and Elena, however, were never pressured to involve themselves with winemaking. In the early 1980s, that was a future reserved for boys.

Growing up, Silvia participated in the various aspects of winegrowing and winemaking with her family but often felt that she had to prove herself as a girl. Starting in 1994, when she was 15 years old, her parents sent her to live with a family in California for the summer. She helped with their five children, and loved it so much that she returned for the next eight summers. “I was the rock star of the village” (relatively few people leave her small village for California!). For high school, Silvia enrolled in Liceo Classico in Alba, taking the humanistic and economics paths, not the science and enologa routes. She then attended the University in Turin and studied international business, graduating in 2003.

Interestingly, her summers in California were with a family that had started its own winemaking adventure, Sine Qua Non, in 1994, the same year Silvia first went to California. They were successful and their cult wines are now quite well known today. This fortuitous connection led Silvia to travel to other wine areas in California and internationally and to work harvests in other countries. When she graduated from the university, it was clear that she would be joining the family estate.

Her sister Elena, three years her junior, also studied languages. She then moved to Germany, where she married in 2006, and now lives with her family. She represents the Elio Altare brand in Germany and also runs a wine importing company.

Chiara Boschis, the first woman winemaker in Barolo, and one of the “Barolo Boys,” is Silvia’s superhero. “I look at her photo every day and say I want to be just like you.” And truth be told, she is! “One needs the passion from inside. It is so intense.”

Silvia purchased the winery from her parents and sister in 2016 but is continuing the family-run structure and traditional approach to viticulture and winemaking. The vineyards are cultivated without the use of chemicals and pesticides and “the wines are simple and natural.” She and her daughter, her parents, and a small staff manage the vineyards, the cellar, and sales and marketing. Elio, still energetic and creative, enjoys mesmerizing visitors with the accomplishments of the Barolo Boys.

As one of the Barolo Boys, Sylvia‘s father, Elio, is noted for an action he took in his own father’s cellar. As the story goes, he took things in a radical direction after a trip with a few friends to Burgundy in the mid-1970s convinced him that barriques (small barrels) rather than the much larger botti should be used for aging wines. But his father was reluctant to make this change, which prompted Elio to take a chain saw to the existing botti, thereby converting them to firewood, and replacing them with barriques! He also began experimenting with shorter fermentations for the Nebbiolo wine. His father was so upset with the break from tradition that he disinherited his son. Undaunted, Elio continued to work while he bought back the winery and vineyards from his siblings. His interventions brought a different interpretation to the family’s wines and resulted in wines of great elegance, finesse, beauty, and balance.

The Wines. Elio Altare is known for its excellent Barolo, Barbera d’Alba, and Nebbiolo, among others. We participated in a lively and educational tasting of Elio Altare wines with long-time aficionados of them from Germany. We all greatly enjoyed the 2016 Barbera d’Alba, 2016 Giarborina, 2016 La Villa Langhe, and the 2015 Barolo and Barolo Aborina.

In addition the 2017 Langhe Nebbiolo and 2017 Dolcetto d’Alba were tucked in our suitcase, ready for future enjoyment.

The Elio Altare Barolo and Elio Altare Arborina consistently receive positive reviews from Italian and international wine critics, as do other of their wines. The Barolo 2010, for example, merited a score of 94 from Robert Parker and a 93 from Wine Spectator; the 2007 Barolo Arborina, earned a score of 96 points from Parker and the Elio Altare Dolcettto d’Alba 2010 a score of 90 points. Silvia’s 2014 Barolo Vigna Bricco Cerretta Riserva was assigned a rating of 95 by Wine Spectator.

The 10 hectare estate produces about 70,000 bottles, of which 80% is exported.