2015 is already being hailed as a classic vintage in Piemonte and there to prove it is Pio Boffa from Pio Cesare who showed off five of his 2015 Barolo and Barbaresco to an enthralled Chris Wilson. A warm vintage with some characteristics of a cool vintage, 2015 in Piemonte has plenty of red fruit but the acidity to keep it fresh, pure and give it plenty of age-worthy potential. Apart from the Classics, Wilson tasted the single vineyard wines, the latest being a first bottling of Mosconi, from land purchased in 2014.
Boffa is intent on Pio Cesare making Barolo in a classic style and avoiding jamminess and over-extraction.
At the bottom of the label of all Pio Cesare’s classic Barolo and Barbaresco wines it states in pretty bold type: “Please don’t call it regular”.
This is something which winemaker Pio Boffa is very passionate about. Boffa is the great-grandson of Pio Cesare and is currently at the helm of the famous Piemonte producer, pulling the strings, overseeing all winemaking and travelling the world promoting the family name and its wines.
What brings him to London is the launch of the 2015 Barolo and Barbaresco wines, five in total including two classic expressions – the ones with the slightly chippy labels.
This label is a rally against some producers in the region who brand their entry-level wines as ‘regular’ – a description which Boffa feels denigrates these famous, delicate wines.
Boffa himself is no regular guy; he’s enigmatic, generous, at-ease, the perfect host. Being the youngest child in the family, he describes himself as the product of ‘the last mistake my parents made’, and says that he got away with murder as a child. He learnt to drive a car at six years old and was allowed to drive around the estate so long as he drove his father and uncles to the vineyards.
It was here that he began to understand the vines and their importance within his family. This interest turned into a passion which has defined his life ever since. He is foremost a cheerleader for the Nebbiolo grape and the wines of the Piemonte region, and is desperate to continue his family’s legacy for producing some of the finest around.
“All wines we produce should express the entire character of the geographical area as a whole, rather than just one specific site within the region,” he says in reference to what he terms the ‘multi single vineyard signature’ of many of his wines, which bring together fruit from a handful of single vineyard sites.
All Pio Cesare’s fruit is estate grown and produced, and the Nebbiolo grape comes from different premium regions with the area to help “represent the different soil types and characters across this land, from sand to limestone.”
Boffa is excited about the 2015 vintage and its potential to age and become an outstanding vintage over time. “It’s a warm vintage with the characteristics of a cooler vintage,” he says, describing how early season rainfall followed by temperature spikes in mid-August helped to set up the 2015 wines to be ‘fresh, pure and full of red fruit.’
As for the future, Boffa is thrilled that both Barolo and Barbaresco are enjoying an increase in interest around the world (80% of Pio Cesare’s wines are exported) but has a constant concern that climate change is and will continue to affect how these grapes are grown in this region.
“I am concerned about making Barolo in the future in the classic character and not in a jammy, over-extracted style,” he says. “We want to preserve the uniqueness of these wines.” With this in mind he has invested in some land at higher altitude outside of the current DOCG to experiment with and in the hope that the geographical boundaries may change in the future to safeguard the classic styles of these mesmerising wines.
For now though we have five 2015s to tackle. Here’s the lowdown.
Pio Cesare Barbaresco 2015 (Classic)
Bright cherry and raspberry nose, very light on its feet. Has a bold persistence of fruit throughout; damson, mulberry. Weighted, sticky finish with keen tannic structure.
Pio Cesare Barolo 2015 (Classic)
Has a real bite, with immediate tannins but also rich and ripe fruit. Something very gamey in the middle; wild boar, dried sausage, herbs. Tastes very young but all the components seem to be there, just needs time for them to fall in the right places.
Pio Cesare Barbaresco ‘Il Brico’ 2015
Fruit here comes from the ‘pick of the hills’ – hence Il Brico. There’s an immediate red liquorice and shoe polish character on the nose and palate, which gives way to delicious, punchy red fruit, soft tannins and smooth acidity. This smells and tastes alive!
Pio Cesare Barolo ‘Ornato’ 2015
Liquorice nose again, this time black liquorice which is backed up by blackberry fruit. A soft, pure and intense wine with those characteristic supple tannins and herby, drying finish.
Pio Cesare Barolo ‘Mosconi’ 2015
2015 is the first vintage of Mosconi, which is from Pio Cesare’s newest plot of land acquired in December 2014. The fruit was ‘too good not to bottle as a single vineyard expression,’ says Boffa, and he’s right. This is lush and creamy with tight berry fruit, a silky mouthfeel and a real kick of acidity. 10% of Mosconi fruit goes into the ‘classic’ blend. For more information click here.
A footnote on Vermouth
The Cesare vermouth originally surfaced in the 1880s and was made annually until 1951 when production stopped as cheaper, inferior vermouths from the region were deemed to be damaging the category. Recently however, production re-started with just 1,000 bottles made each year.
The process is wonderfully simple; take some white wine (formerly old vine Moscato, today Chardonnay) and fortify it with a splash of high-strength alcohol into which 23 different herbs had been macerating for 2-3 weeks. Fine, filter and age in bottle for six months. Best enjoyed at ‘cellar temperature’ – 8-10 degrees – with a slither of lemon.
Boffa prefers his vermouth ‘to be drunk alone’ however cocktails are permitted. “I will not be offended if the vermouth can show itself in the cocktail,” he says.
It’s delicious; fresh, zingy, weighted and aromatic with fennel and citrus notes at its very heart.