The 2014 purchase of the Mosconi vineyard by Pio Cesare has started bearing fruit. It was intended originally to be a source of Nebbiolo for the seven-vineyard blend of the winery’s Classic Barolo but, once winery chief Pio Boffa tasted the output from the 10 hectare vineyard he decided to make it into another single vineyard wine to sit alongside Barolo Ornato. Peter Dean met up with Boffa for a memorable tasting lunch to compare Mosconi with Ornato, and to talk about all things Barolo.
Climate change, the misunderstood 2014 vintage, comparing 2015 and 2016 Barolo and why you should never call the Classic Barolo ‘regular’.
Four years ago Pio Boffa bought himself a little 60th birthday present. Not a new set of golf clubs, a picture to hang in the hall, a holiday for him and the family. Nope. Just a ‘tiny’ vineyard called Mosconi in Monforte d’Alba, a region of Piemonte that four generations of the Pio Cesare dynasty had never been able to have a foothold in.
By ‘tiny’ I mean 10 hectares of prime Nebbiolo vines where a hectare now costs between €4 and €5 million a hectare. Blimey! I wonder what his wife bought him…
Pio Boffa was in London recently with the first tank samples from Mosconi – of the first two vintages that Pio Cesare has produced there – 2015 and 2016 – to compare and contrast with the other single vineyard Barolo the winery produces, Ornato, a wine that regularly gets placed in the world’s top 10 wines.
Boffa confesses that it was never his intention to produce another single vineyard Barolo with Mosconi but, upon tasting the results, realised that it might be ‘a waste’ putting it into the traditional Classic Barolo, the seven vineyard blend, upon which the fame of the company has been built.
And boy was he right.
Even with just two vintages under its belt, it is clear that Pio Cesare has got another distinctive single vineyard Barolo in the stable that is a delightful contrast with Ornato – like having both a Côte de Nuits and a Côte de Beaune in the same portfolio. It also means that for the first time, from the 2015 vintage, Pio Cesare is producing wine made entirely from estate-grown fruit.
The tasting was a complex one to relate journalistically without going into reams of tasting notes because not only were we contrasting 2015 and 2016 Ornato with Mosconi (neither of which are bottled yet) but we were also tasting them against the Classic Barolo; and then contrasting Ornato with Classic Barolo from the following vintages: 2014, 2006, 2000 and 1997.
We were also listening to Boffa’s fascinating insights into holding the reins of one of the key Barolo houses, as well as enjoying a food-pairing lunch that had such wondrous morsels as sirloin and Stilton sliders, accompanied by aged Barolo. Yeah, first world problems etc I know.
So, anyway, here are the key learnings from the tasting:
Anticipating further climate change
Like many winemakers Pio Boffa is worried about climate change, so much so that he has just bought another vineyard, outside Barolo this time, 20 hectares of Nebiolo vineyard that is 600m above sea level. The winery is now concentrating on the purity of the fruit, using less new oak than they did in the 1990s where it was used to cut through the intensity of the fruit being produced in warmer conditions.
2014 is a ‘sleeper’ vintage in Piemonte
Boffa’s ‘inside tip’ is that 2014 is a vintage that is currently under the radar and which will soon be understood as being better than at first thought. The reason? He believes that opinion-formers usually judge Piemonte by what is happening in Tuscany, even though they are hundreds of miles apart.
Tuscany had a dreadful vintage with 2014 and, although Boffa admits that 2014 isn’t the best vintage in Piemonte, the cooler weather earlier in the year delayed the ripening cycle so that everything ripened slower and correctly – close to the classic styles of the 1960s “not over hot and not packed with fruit.”
Tasting the Pio Cesare Classic Barolo 2014, there is high acidity, a finesse, persistence and great balance to the wine. This is a lovely, pretty and elegant wine and worth checking out before the critics revise their scores and prices rise.
2015 and 2016 are very different vintages in Piemonte
2016 was a massive harvest. Even with four green harvests, Pio Cesare reached the maximum output allowed by the DOCG. The uncharacteristically hot end to the summer meant that there was way more fruit than 2015 which was more classic and traditional.
Neither the 2015 nor the 2016 are bottled yet, although the former is expected to be bottled any day now. Tasting tank samples of the Classic Barolo from these two vintages, the 2015 could easily be drunk now. It was so approachable with ripe red cherries and other secondary characters coming into the wine. The 2016 was more elegant and less expressive, tannins more forward (as you’d expect) and drier on the finish.
Mosconi and Ornato: two jewels in the crown
Mosconi is a real gem and is going to be a delight to compare and contrast with Ornato in the coming decades. In a nutshell the Mosconi was lighter on its feet, more red fruit than black and more red liquorice than black. The 2015 Mosconi was so juicy and precise, while the 2015 Ornato at this stage was more savoury and generous. The 2016 Mosconi was broader with more length than the 2015 Mosconi, while the 2016 Ornato was so complex, a nose of rose petals and dried herbs and tannins that were amazingly well integrated for a wine so young. Little lick of cream on the end.
Don’t you dare call Classic Barolo “regular”
Pio Cesare resisted making a single vineyard Barolo until 1985 when Ornato was released and, even with the release of Mosconi, is fiercely proud and defensive of the Classic Barolo. Given the amount of times Pio Boffa has had to correct people that Classic does not mean ‘ordinary’ or ‘regular’ but Barolo made in the traditional blended style, the company now has ‘Please, don’t call it “regular” ‘ actually printed on the front of the wine label.
The stars of the tasting
Classic Barolo 2014
Boffa is right, this is a gem of a vintage. Pretty, elegant, balanced.
Classic Barolo 2000
Make no mistake this is a phenomenal vintage and this wine is stunning. There is so much juicy fruit here but not in a robust way. The nose is so expressive with fresh tobacco and a little cedar box. On the palate the wine is harmonious, a little Rumtopf plum richness on the finish.
Barolo Ornato 2000
Barolo Ornato 2015
Barolo Ornato 2016
Barolo Mosconi 2015
For all the reasons given above.
The wines of Pio Cesare are distributed in the UK by Maisons Marques et Domaines.