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People Wine & Drinks

Man in the middle

epicure 29 January 2013

Barolo winemaking is infamously split into two camps: the modernists and the traditionalists. But Pio Boffa, winemaker of Pio Cesare winery, shows that the best approach is to mix and match methods from each side.

After a long flight and a languorous wine lunch peppered with his speeches, Pio Boffa, 58, winemaker of the renowned Pio Cesare winery in Italy’s Piedmont, shows no signs of fatigue. His voice is a little hoarse, though; a discomfort that is remedied by an espresso. Having just tasted several of his Barolo and Barbaresco wines—the DOCG quaffs made from the Nebbiolo grape—I can’t help but ask him: which of the two does he prefer? He chuckles. The ‘favourite child’ question, says the glint in his eyes. “If I’m dining with a powerful man, I’d choose a Barolo. If I’m with a woman, I’d pick a Barbaresco,” he quips.

Boffa’s witty analogy on his two prized reds isn’t far off the mark. Barolo is long known to be the more powerful of the two, while Barbaresco usually triumphs in elegance and finesse. For Boffa, the real magic of the vinos lies not so much in their differences but in the uniqueness of the Piedmont terroir.  “You can plant grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir almost anywhere in the world, but for Nebbiolo, you can only grow them in our region,” he says.

Established in 1881 by his great grandfather, Cesare Pio, Pio Boffa’s winery is located in the centre of Alba. The vineyards make up a series of top names in Piedmont: for example, in the Barolo region, there’s the family owned Ornato estate in Serralunga d’Alba, which produces the rich Ornato Barolo; and the plots of Serralunga d’Alba, Grinzane Cavour, La Morra and Barolo-Novello, whose fruit combine to make the winery’s classic Barolo label; a more fruit forward version of the Ornato. Pio Cesare’s 2008 vintage of Il Bricco Barbaresco, a single vineyard offering from Il Bricco plot, is an aged stunner that drew many praises during our wine lunch: a seductive mix of floral and cherry notes, with hints of mint, wet stones and soy; a complex red that paired well with a veal loin wrapped in rye crumbs and rosemary.

Excerpt from the February 2013 issue of epicure.

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