It was the first of its kind outside of Italy as all of the prestigious Barolo and Barbaresco wine producers from the wine region of Piedmont gathered together in New York to present their top offerings. Some of the most outstanding red Italian wines made by some of the most iconic wine producers were all in the same room; a room that was worthy of such guests with its soaring ceiling and its expansive, open space as many wine professionals, as well as passionate wine lovers, enthusiastically went from table to table, experiencing the greatest hits of the Italian wine world.
Of course, the esteemed Pio Cesare multi-generational wine producer was there with their great Barolo and Barbaresco red wines. Pio Boffa, one of the family owners leading the winery, was in attendance. But he wasn’t the kind of man who just wanted to quickly talk to as many people as possible. Instead, he was more about the deeper one-on-one connections to allow others to truly understand his family’s legacy and the core values he fought for daily.
When he talked to someone, he fully registered that person wanting to know who they were, where they came from and what was most valuable to them. That day, he would make the few deep connections he always searched for, even when many warned him and others not to go to New York City. This extravaganza, aptly called “Barolo & Barbaresco World Opening,” was happening in the heart of Manhattan at the beginning of February 2020. Despite NYC seemingly having no known issues with a COVID-19 outbreak because they didn’t have tests yet, unbeknownst to many, it was spreading like wildfire as people from all over the world came in and out of the densely populated city on a daily basis.
Within a couple of weeks, NYC was in an extreme lockdown that many could only envision existing in a post-apocalyptic movie.
Pio wouldn’t have issues getting back home safely during that time, but sadly, after only a little more than a year later, he passed away after battling Covid at the too-young age of 66. It was a devastating moment for the Italian wine world as he had been a vital part of running his family’s winery for over 40 years.
Pio Boffa was prepared by his father to take over the winery since he was a child, making him grow up quickly as every free moment was devoted to the business. And so it wasn’t only in his DNA; it was also part of the air he breathed every day and it determined the rhyme of his life that was in sync with his beating heart. His daughter, Federica Boffa, followed the same path. Even though she was only in her early 20s during the Barolo & Barbaresco World Opening in 2020, Pio talked about how he could already see that she would be a greater leader than he had been. So, he was assured at that time that she would take their legacy to the next level.
Superficially, Federica Boffa doesn’t look like her father, still, she has the same strength of character in her eyes and desire to deeply connect with those who are interested in her family’s wines. Today, she oversees Pio Cesare with her cousin, Cesare Benvenuto, who worked alongside Pio Boffa for many years.
Recently, Federica talked about all the major projects they are taking on such as building two new facilities within the “historic center of Alba,” as it was once known as the production capital for Barolo and Barbaresco. Pio Cesare is one of the last foundational families of Barolo still there with their original winery, and now, they are placing more investment into this historic place that “has many problems,” according to Federica, and if they don’t preserve and restore the birthplace of Barolo winemaking then who will? She insists that they have no intention of increasing production but want to give themselves more room for cellaring bottles, allowing for more wine to age, hence increasing quality, and another facility will be dedicated to the sole purpose of making wine.
The Pio Cesare wine family has made a few different white wines in tiny quantities over the years as Pio Boffa loved them. They make a Cortese di Gavi, a common traditional white wine of the area. Still, many years ago, as a young man in the early 1970s, he tried to convince his father to plant Chardonnay but his father was extremely traditional and wouldn’t allow it. Finally, in 1981, Pio Boffa got to plant his Chardonnay in one of their cooler Barbaresco vineyards and the neighbors were sure that he had lost his mind. Pulling out the sacred Nebbiolo red grape variety that produces their legendary wines was one thing, but so that he could plant a foreign French white variety no less! But through time, the beautiful expression of place in their small production of Chardonnay wine has won over a strong following and its style is similar to Burgundy with its finesse and freshness, yet it is an expression of a specific vineyard in Barbaresco.
Actually, the idea that their Chardonnay is Burgundian in style is quite fitting as many red Burgundy lovers also appreciate red Barolo and Barbaresco, despite their profile on the palate being sometimes quite the opposite, depending on the vineyard and vintage. Yet, they both have two significant things in common: affinity for expression of place and a complex, aromatic nose.
But now they are investing in a white wine called Timorasso that is not only on the same high level as their Chardonnay but is indigenous to the area.
Timorasso is a native white variety that has existed since the Middle Ages. Some Latin documents trace it back to the town of Tortona, located in the Piedmont region. A few years ago, the Pio Cesare wine family bought land in the Colli Tortonesi Timorasso area, where they have planted Timorasso. In the future, they will release aged Timorasso onto the market, which will be around 800 cases in production. Some have described Timorasso as similar to the Riesling white grape variety because it has honey aromas with lots of minerality and high acidity, making great old bones as a flinty minerality starts to become more noticeable with cellaring. Hence, Federica and her cousin will release it onto the market when it shows that wonderfully complex note.
Honoring Her Father
The Pio Cesare Chardonnay, established by Pio Boffa, is named ‘Piodilei,’ which means ‘Pio for the ladies’ as it is a dedication to the women in the family, who in the past had to be behind the scenes due to the convention of the time. Pio Boffa was very passionate about the Chardonnay when he was a young man and it took that extreme passion to overcome tradition so he could plant a few rows. When he tasted an excellent Chardonnay, it reminded him of some of the strongest people he knew – the women in his family – because it was powerful with plenty of structure while also being elegant with an overall finesse.
When Pio passed away in 2021, Federica decided to place the original label on their 2020 Chardonnay wine, the vintage that was next in line to be bottled at the time, as a dedication to the hero in her life who empowered her to become the woman she is today.
Back in the early 1980s, Pio Boffa could have never imagined that when he was honoring the women in his family with his ‘Piodilei’ Chardonnay wine, the woman who would be the most incredible representative of those qualities wouldn’t even have been born yet. But today, she leads the family business in ways that Pio himself could only dream of and she not only honors her father by placing the original label on the 2020 vintage but she honors him every day by being the extraordinary woman whom he saw very early on in his little girl’s eyes.
2019 Pio Cesare’ Piodilei’ Chardonnay, Langhe DOC, Piedmont, Italy: 100% Chardonnay from their family-owned vineyard Il Bricco. Pretty nose with citrus blossom and stony minerality with juicy white peach flavors, crisp acidity and elegant textural contrast with broad body and fine structure that gives lift along the expressive finish.
2019 Pio Cesare, Barbaresco DOCG, Piedmont, Italy: 100% Nebbiolo from family-owned vineyards Treiso and San Rocco Seno d’Elvio. An enticing floral nose of lilacs with delicious note of warm raspberries with subtle red cherry flavor on the palate and very fine tannins.
2019 Pio Cesare, Barolo DOCG, Piedmont, Italy: 100% Nebbiolo from family-owned vineyards in Serralunga d’Alba, Grinzane Cavour, La Morra, Novello and Monforte. The earthier intensity of broken rocks and, on the palate, ripe red cherries balanced by zingy cranberries with hints of spices and fresh bay leaves with lace-like tannins.
2019 Pio Cesare, Il Bricco Vineyard, Barbaresco DOCG, Piedmont, Italy: 100% Nebbiolo that comes from the highest part of the family-owned vineyard of Il Bricco. Intriguing nose of sandalwood and cinnamon stick with darker fruit and bigger structure with marked acidity, and this wine will stand up to long-term cellaring.
2019 Pio Cesare, Ornato Vineyard, Barolo DOCG, Piedmont, Italy: 100% Nebbiolo from the family-owned prestigious vineyard Ornato in Serralunga d’Alba. A bright, inviting wine with lots of verve and life that presents delightful, pristine fruit such as red cherries, boysenberries and red currants that is balanced by savory herbs such as thyme with an elegant body and aromatic finish with aniseed notes.
2019 Pio Cesare, Mosconi Vineyard, Barolo DOCG, Piedmont, Italy: 100% Nebbiolo from the family-owned stellar vineyard Mosconi in Monforte d’Alba. This wine seduces from the first sip with lush fruit and silky tannins that caress the palate and the delectably rich, multi-layered fruit is balanced by fresh acidity and complex notes of tar and an intense minerality at its core. Despite its lush palate, it is still finely delineated with perfect precision on the very long finish. A fantastic wine that is already a superstar now but these wines age really well so try to muster up every ounce of willpower to put a few of these glorious beauties in the cellar.