Ottavi was born in Sandigliano. His father Giuseppe Antonio Ottavio was an agronomist, and his brother Edoardo, editor of the journal Il Coltivatore, was also seen as a significant figure in the development of nineteenth-century Italian viticulture.
He was the author of various treatises and monographs, including Enologia teorico-pratica (1898), and was the founder of the Giornale vinicolo italiano. His Inno ai Krumiri (1886) is a "hymn" to the krumiro, a type of biscuit created in Casale Monferrato, the town where he largely lived and where he died in 1893.
- Félix Sahut, Les vignes américaines: leur greffage et leur taille (Monpelliers: Camille Coulet; Paris: A Delahaye et Lecrosnier, 1887), p. 503.
- Coulet, pp. 509 and 714.
- Photograph and details of his commemorative plaque, sculpted by Leonardo Bistolfi, in Casale Monferrato.
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