As is the case across Europe, the 2015 vintage in Barolo is very fine. The vintage saw a cold winter, letting the vines rest, followed by a rainy spring fueling the water table for the summer ahead. This was fortunate as July was the hottest on record, achieving excellent phenolic ripeness. Latterly, the vintage saw diurnal shifts helping build texture and structure. We kick-start our 2015 Barolo coverage with Pio Cesare and it comes as no surprise therefore that in 2015 they have produced what could be their finest Barolo ever. It has been awarded its joint highest ever score with 96 points from James Suckling, who says it has ‘wonderful length and richness. Goes on for minutes.’ Its price today on release is £225 per case of six, which gives it a Price Over Points ratio of an extremely appealing 28. Pio Cesare Barolo continues to offer fantastic value for money on release, displaying a strong vintage premium.
Pio Cesare is named eponymously after the man who founded the Estate in 1881 and has been producing classic Piedmontese wines for five generations, over which time they have secured some wonderful single vineyards and relationships with growers. Their main source of grapes used in their Barolo comes from the magnificent 40 acre vineyard in Serralunga d’Alba called Ornato. This is found in the eastern most part of Barolo and is the exclusive source of their vineyard designated Barolo ‘Ornato’. Their flagship Barolo released today is sourced from their leading vineyards and reflects the classic traditional formula used by the ancient Barolo families, which forms synthesis between all of their leading vineyards.
The Cesare cellar is based in Alba and its walls date back to 50BC the time of the Roman Empire. Today the Estate is run by Pio’s Great-Grandson Pio Boffa who has recently made significant investment, rebuilding and restructuring the cellars and wine facilities. A new fermentation cellar has been built with a new gravity racking area and a new barrel ageing room has been built 12 metres under the ancient Roman walls. Pio Cesare reflects a wonderful balance of traditional and modern winemaking.
In Barolo there are two waves of winemakers, the traditionalists and the modernists. The traditionalists use large Slovenian oak casks and produce wines with big tannins and beguiling aromas, requiring longer ageing, with noticeable spice aromas such as cinnamon. The modern winemakers use rotary fermenters and shorter maceration times; they also use much smaller new French oak barrique (225 litres). As a result the wines tend to have oak, vanilla and toast flavours, are more fruit forward and can be consumed younger. There are also a set of winemakers that straddle the two schools and Pio Cesare does this beautifully; fermenting in stainless steel tanks with skin contact for ten days. After drawing off, 80% of the wine rests for 20 months in medium toasted (70%) new French oak while 20% ages in hectolitre casks.
In their youth Pio Cesare’s Barolos display concentrated and focused fruit: blackcurrants, redcurrants, almonds, prunes, pepper, tar and ginger with lovely high notes of violets, rose and liquorice. With age it will develop leather, forest floor, porcini mushroom, coffee and truffle.
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