Pio Cesare: Wines with a Modern Approach in a Traditional Style
When we think of Piedmonte, we think of Barolo and Barbaresco. When we think of Barolo and Barbaresco, we ultimately think of Nebbiolo, a wine that commands attention, respect and a little bit of patience. These same three characteristics rang true when I met Pio Boffa, the producer of the family owned winery Pio Cesare, in Piedmonte, Italy.
The man walks into the room at La Chronique in Montreal, and I immediately stand up a little taller, as he unknowingly commands presence and attention. Nothing is left to chance as Mr. Boffa was keeping a close eye to every minute detail before the tasting with journalists began. Meticulous, he made sure each wine was at the perfect temperature and in the correct order, not shy to express exactly how the tasting was to be orchestrated.
In 1881, his great grandfather Cesare Pio (at that time, it was common for people to place last names first and the first names last) founded the estate with a desire make small quantity wines with the highest possible quality. Cesare Pio was an entrepreneur in various fields, but what started as a hobby quickly turned into something much more meaningful, and he started making wine for himself and the generations after him. Today, the family has strictly kept the quality, tradition, respect and dedication for the wines that Cesare Pio had started so many years before.
Barolo and Barbaresco as we know them today, was not the same when it was initially being produced over a hundred of years ago, as they were quite sweet. Pio’s great grandfather was the first to not only erase the sweet styles, but also one of the first to make sure his wines were being exported across the world.
Today, Pio Cesare does not make huge quantities of wine, as it is not the aim of the family. The aim of the family is to produce, year after year, a wine that is loyal to the style of the wine that was made by the years and generations before, in the sense they are trying to portray the true essence of the terroir of Barbaresco and Barolo. This can be difficult to do, given there is not only a change in climate, but the clones of the grapes and the people behind the wines have also changed. As each generation comes into the business, they have their own ideas, their own opinions as to how they think things should be done, and adjustments need to be made. “But if we keep the word respect in mind, if we adapt with the environmental and scientific changes that come, we will always respect the desire of what my family wanted to do generations ago, which is to make a style of wine that can express purity, finesse and elegance.”
One of the ways they stay true to their tradition is by blending wines from different vineyards. “This is our way of being classic, traditional, a way of being close to the way our family has been making wine.” Since 2012, Pio Cesare has added a small quote on their labels. ‘Please don’t call this wine regular.’ Mr. Boffa explains, “In the industry, there is a tendency for people to believe that the Barolos with the name of single vineyards have to be considered higher of quality, but this is not the case. In the past, at the end of the 1800’s, Barolo and Barbaresco was made by blend different locations in order to give the best expression of place. By knowing the potential of each location, they would really produce a wine by blending grapes from the different locations which becomes the real essence of the entire location.”
The wines of Pio Cesare have a mid of a modern approach, yet set in a traditional style. Nebbiolo is allowed to show its potential here – a gentle expression of fruit that is multifaceted. Wines that are great young, but like people, with age get better and better. A very special thank you to Mr. Pio Boffa and Elixirs Vins et Spiritueux for this incredible tasting.
Pio Cesare Fides 2013
SAQ: 10802349 $45.00
Meaning ‘ Faith’ in Latin, this 100% Barbera offers juicy strawberries and sour cherries, and spices. Plenty of acidity, crunchy tannins and perfect kiss of oak. There a great concentration of red fruit and bits of earth on the finish. Lovely. Drink now or in the next 8-10 years.
Pio Cesare Oltre 2014
SAQ: 11353047 $32.25
This is a blend of Nebbiolo, Barbera, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine is fresh and intense with ripe cherries, blackberries and plum. The hints of tobacco and spice present themselves mid way through the sip as does the grippy tannins and very bright acidity. Medium bodied, and smooth of the palate, this wine is very approachable and easy to drink. The finish is nicely structured with an earthy touch. Drink now or in the next 8-10 years.
Pio Cesare Barbaresco 2014
SAQ: 00905026 $72.00
A classic, well made Barbaresco which displays notes of cherries, strawberries, plums and roses. The fruit is intense, ripe, and ever so delicate. Soft spices dance across the palate, with the slightest hint of vanilla. This wine has power and depth, but keeping balance and elegance throughout. This is a very special wine with plenty of aging potential. Hold on to this for a bit… drink in the next 10-12 years.
Pio Cesare Barolo 2012
This wine is layered in intense cherries, strawberries and plum with spice, dry earth and beautiful floral elements. The youthful tannins add depth and texture, and will tame down given some time. The vibrant acidity is balanced with a great depth of fruit and licorice and flowers. The long, elegant finish ends on loads of cherries, with a fine mineral streak. Gorgeous. Be patient here – do not open this for at least another 6-8 at the very least. With the raspy tannins, fruit and high acidity, this has great aging potential.