M. Cristina Oddero

M. Cristina Oddero

Oddero (Barolo) (Enologa/Winemaker and Owner)

“My joy lies in preserving the strong values of family and tradition, while also embracing research-based innovation and change.”

Cristina Oddero, a scientist at heart, has learned to seek new paths when life has thrown her a curve ball. First a student of agronomic science and then a teacher of chemistry and biochemistry, Cristina now co-owns and directs the Oddero estate.

Cristina’s story is a bit complicated. A representative of the sixth generation, she grew up in a wine family. Her parents, Carla and Giacomo, were both pharmacists and owned a pharmacy together. Italian and French literature was discussed over dinner, and empathy for others always emphasized. Giacomo was also a visionary leader in the wine community. For example, he helped bring about the procedural guidelines that gave wines of the Langhe and Roero their DOC and later DOCG certifications. Her father also co-owned a family estate that he and his brother, Luigi, had inherited.

Cristina attended Liceo Classico in Alba for high school and then went on to the University of Turin to study agriculture. An important aspect of her undergraduate research concerned how various kinds of grapevine rootstock respond to the different soils in the Piemonte region. She then went on to complete her master’s degree in viniculture and enology at Turin in 1987. The subject of her thesis was malolactic bacteria in Barbera wines. Cristina had great teachers and described her studies at Turin as a “formative” experience.

She first taught soil chemistry and then taught chemistry and biology in Alba from 1987 until 2000. While teaching, she also started working part-time in the cellar at the family estate, and in 2000, Cristina left her teaching position to be full-time at the winery.

Cristina and her Uncle Luigi had “some different ideas about the vineyards and the cellar” and in 2006, after a few very tense and difficult years, the two families decided to go their separate ways, dividing their nearly 60 hectares of land. Cristina kept the family’s historic cellars in La Morra, and her uncle formed his own winery, Luigi Oddero e Figli. She and her older sister, Mariavittoria, a physician, are now co-owners, and their son and daughter, respectively, have key positions at the estate. Meeting Cristina’s son, Pietro, and her niece, Isabella, the day of our visit was a special pleasure for us.

The Vineyards and Winery. Cristina clearly loves what she does, as she demonstrated as she led us through our thoroughly enjoyable extensive and informative visit to the vineyards and tour of the impressive new winery. Completed in 2015, and designed by a woman who had gone to school with Cristina, it uses up-to-date approaches to insulation and energy conservation.

Winemaking at Oddero combines traditional knowledge with modern methods and research. Except for the Moscato and Reisling, all the grapes are certified organic; the process of certification for the Moscato and Reisling fruit is underway. Notably, Cristina was the first person in the area to use netting to protect the grapes from hail, and it is now quite common. Close attention is paid to the vines from spring pruning to harvest. Wood and stainless steel are used for aging the wines. Carefully selected Austrian, Slovenian, and French oak are used for the Barolo and Barbaresco. The Barbera d’Alba and d’Asti are aged in botti, larger oak barrels.

Being long-time beekeepers ourselves, we were intrigued by Oddero’s also being producers of honey. Apparently the idea for placing beehives in the vineyards was associated with both the recent designation in 2014 of the hills of the Langhe as a UNESCO World Heritage site and the fact that 90% of their grapes are now being certified organic. The first beehives were brought into the vineyards in 2016 with the aim of providing better care of the environment and promoting biodiversity. There currently are some 20 hives near the vineyards, and a sizeable production of honey results.

The Wines. Oddero has 35 hectares of vineyard property in Langhe and Asti, of which 16.5 are cultivated with Nebbiolo. Their vineyard holdings consist of many small parcels in the top crus of Bussia in Monforte d’Alba, Brunate in La Morra, Vignarionda in Serralunga, Villero in Castiglione Falletto, and Gallina in Neive. Another six hectares are devoted to hazelnut trees.

Known for its excellent Barolo, Oddero also produces Barbaresco, Langhe Nebbiolo, Dolcetto d’Alba, Barbera d’Alba, Barbera d’Asti, and Moscato. Its total production is approximately 165,000 bottles, 60% of which are exported to other countries.

We appreciated the opportunity to taste three very wonderful wines with Cristina, the Langhe Reisling 2016, the 2017 Langhe Nebbiolo, and the 2015 Oddero Barolo Villero. A lovely gift bottle of the 2015 Barolo that was carefully tucked into our suitcase is now safe and sound in our wine cellar.

Oddero wines, particularly its Barolo, consistently get excellent reviews from Italian and international wine critics. For example the 2014 Oddero Barolo Brunate received a score of 93 from both Robert Parker and from Migliori Vini d'Italia. The 2007 Barolo Riserva Vigna Rionda, earned a score of 95 from Parker, and was described “as a powerful and exuberant expression that shows the density and the inner energy of Serralunga d'Alba.” Similarly, the Barolo Riserva Vignarionda 2008 received a score of 94+ from Parker, and the 2011 Barolo Riserva Bussia Vigna Mondoca a score of 94. These consistently high ratings are an impressive measure of the quality of Oddero wines.