I was in Piedmont to visit the winery of renowned Pio Cesare in Alba. My winery visit was on the invitation of owner Pio Boffa (whom I interviewed for this column in Manila last November). This also coincided with my being already in Italy for the Tuscan International Press Tour. Piemonte, which means “at the foot of the mountain’’ is located in the northwest corner of Italy, with Switzerland to its north, and France to its west, and the Mediterranean coastline to the south. The breathtaking Alps linger over this gorgeous wine region. The sight at night was so captivating that I could not resist and posted a picture in my Facebook page of the picturesque blue sky that hovers over snow coated vineyards photographed from where I was billeted, in Pio Boffa’s ancestral house.
The Pio Cesare winery is located almost too ideally in the center of the town of Alba. Inconspicuously concealed by its modest facade is a beautiful winery that began making some of the best Piedmont wines since 1881. The winery, which has been upgraded several times with the most modern winemaking facilities, still operates on an ancient cellar with original cellar walls that dated back to the Roman Empire. One of the most fascinating rooms within the cellar is the old storage room which still contains Barolos and Barbarescos dating back to the early 20th century. These are all real inventory, but unfortunately the boss Pio Boffa was not in Alba when I was there …. well, even if Pio was in town, there probably was a slim chance I could try some of these old vintages … but that thought was good enough! I just haven’t ever tasted really old Piedmont wines, like I had with Bordeauxs, Brunellos and even Riojas.
Home of Nutella and Ferrero Rocher
Alba is not just a wine haven, it is also known for two other products, the very exquisite white truffles, and of the original hazelnut chocolate spread Nutella. While during my visit, it was not white truffle season, I did see quite a bit of Nutella and other chocolate goodies mostly made by Alba’s very own Ferrero SpA. Ferrero SpA is one of Europe’s largest manufacturers of chocolate and other confectionery products, estimated to be a €7.7 billion company last 2012. It was founded by confectioner Pietro Ferrero in 1946 right in Alba, Piedmont, Italy. Nutella, the world wide phenomenon spread, was invented in 1963, and this was probably the brand that catapulted the success of Ferrero SpA. I found out that there is even a World Nutella Day, which is celebrated every 5th of February. Other popular Ferrero SpA products include my favorite Ferrero Rocher, Kinder, and Tic Tac breath mints.
Piodilei Single Vineyard Chardonnay
The Alba visit would not be complete without the tasting of Piemontese wines, and nothing is more representative of this region than Pio Cesare wines itself. As my gracious host, Cesare Benvenuto, nephew of Pio Boffa told me `after much Tuscan wines, it is time to taste better wines’…. obviously, there is always a friendly competition between two of Italy’s proudest wine regions: Tuscany and Piedmont. I have already tasted most of the Pio Cesare wines in Manila last November, and I tasted them anew in this trip. But one wine that I failed to try in Manila, and because of my own doing too, was the Chardonnay from Pio Cesare. As a wine marketer, I really think it is an extremely “hard sell’’ to promote Piedmont Chardonnays given the huge number of premium Chardonnays already available in the local market; from Chablis, to Napa, to Sonoma, to Marlborough, to Barossa, to single vineyard Chilean versions. So, when it was time for Golden Wines to choose from Pio Cesare’s portfolio for wine consideration, I left out the Chardonnays. And my first experience of this varietal from this region came on this same trip, and I was converted into a big fan!
Pio Cesare makes two Chardonnays: one under the `Piodilei’ Langhe D.O.C. label, and the other, `L’Antro’ Chardonnay Piemonte D.O.C. - `L’Antro’ also happens to mean `The Other’ in Italian. Piodilei is the top Chardonnay of the Pio Cesare estate, and is a single vineyard wine coming from the winery’s own `Il Bricco’ Estate, in the Barbaresco area from old vines planted as early as 1980. Chardonnay, being a foreign grape from France, as a varietal was only made into a D.O.C. (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) from I.G.T. (Indicazione Geografica Tipica) around 1994. Pio Cesare is one of the earlier Piedmont wineries to plant Chardonnays.
Tasting Notes of the two Piodelei vintages:
Pio Cesare `Piodilei’ Chardonnay 2009, Langhe DOC – this was tasted at a restaurant during our dinner; `nice peach pie nose, doughy, fresh ripe fruit acid, good structure, dry with long lemon-peel lingering finish’
Pio Cesare `Piodilei’ Chardonnay 2010, Langhe DOC – this was tasted at the Pio Cesare winery’s tasting room; `a very clean nose, with white pepper spice, racy acids, medium bodied, citrusy and flinty on a long finish’
My notes on other Pio Cesare wines, especially the recent vintage red wines were covered in my previous column on Christmas day, December 25, 2012.
Pio Cesare wines are now available at Golden Wines, Inc., with telephone number (02)638-5025, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Piodilei Chardonnay will be added to this portfolio soon as well.
For comments, inquiries, wine event coverage, wine consultancy and other wine related concerns, please e-mail me at email@example.com. I am a proud member of the Federation Internationale des Journalists et Ecrivains du Vin et des Spiritueux or FIJEV since 2010. You can also follow me on twitter at www.twitter.com/sherwinlao.