Piedmont translates as ‘foot of the mountain’ with the Alps to its north and west. The best vineyards soak up the sun, forming an amphitheatre shape and the soils are rich with calcareous matter. Piedmont is unquestionably one of the world’s great winemaking regions and its crowning jewel is Barolo DOCG. Barolo has three prestigious sub-regions, La Morra which tends to produce more fragrant wines and Falletto and Serralunga, which are found on Helvetian sandstone producing a bigger style and more concentrated wine.
Barolo is made from the exceptional and truly distinct grape Nebbiolo, which derives its name from the Italian word for fog Nebia, prevalent in the vineyards of this region. Nebbiolo is the only grape that combines high alcohol, high tannins and acidity, yet is light in colour due to having lower anthocyanins or colour pigmentation in its skin. It therefore has a Burgundian lightness, fragrance and is hugely aromatic, combined with the power of Bordeaux. Piedmont was once part of the Savoy Kingdom which explains the French winemaking influence.
Pio Cesare is named eponymously after the man who begun in 1881 and the estate has be 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 area of Barolo and is the exclusive source of their vineyard designated Barolo Ornato (in 2009 scoring 93+ costing £300). The soil here is chalky and iron rich, while the vines average age is 35 years and taken together explains the wines’ relatively deep colour and long ageing potential.
The Cesare cellar is based in Alba and its walls date back to 50 B.C. 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 meters underneath the ancient Roman walls. Pio Cesare reflects a wonderful balance of tradition 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 drunk 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 of ten days. After drawing off the wine 80% rests for 20 months in medium toasted (70%) new French oak while 20% ages in hectolitres casks.
Pio Cesare is an estate at the top of its game and in 2009 received 93 points from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate. This offers wonderful value at £180 per case of six bottles. Their impressive 2004, which also scored 93 points already costs £380, so it is pays to secure it on release. Put in context the 94 and 95 point scoring Bruno Giacosa Falletto and Gaja Sperrs 2009 cost £445 and £675 respectively.
If you love Barolo and want a great bottle for £30 in bond or £38 including VAT and duty we recommend the Pio Cesare Barolo 2009. In its youth it displays concentrated and focused fruit: blackcurrants, redcurrant, 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. In any case as the price climbs to reflect the 2004 value you are likely to see a 40-50% price increase four years.
Antonio Galloni, 92 points – tasted October 2013
‘The 2009 Barolo fleshes out in the glass nicely. Smoke, tobacco, worn-in leather, spices and menthol all take shape in a broad, large-scaled Barolo endowed with serious depth. Firm yet nicely-integrated tannins support a voluptuous, creamy finish endowed with serious depth. The 2009 can be enjoyed now, but it also has more than enough depth to drink well for the next decade-plus.’ 2014-2024
Monica Larner, Wine Advocate 93 points – tasted June 2013
Pio Cesare offers two very distinct expressions of Barolo. The first, the 2009 Barolo, shows classic lines and elegant characteristics of mild spice and forest berry backed by dried ginger, blue flower and anise seed. Its tight, crisp and finely textured mouthfeel appeal to those with a preference for traditional Barolo. Again, this producer has done a good job managing the warmer vintage conditions.’ 2015-2028
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