PIED­MONT’S MAGIC

For a taste of pure po­etry, look no fur­ther than Pio Ce­sare’s ex­pres­sive Baro­los

Wine & Dine - - CONTENTS - WORDS ED­WIN SOON

On the mist-cov­ered vineclad hills of the Pied­mont, you’ll find two of Italy’s most en­gag­ing wines—the Bar­baresco and Barolo. Both are pro­duced from the Neb­bi­olo grape, and what lies in ev­ery bot­tle is pure po­etry. The Neb­bi­olo grape pro­duces lightly coloured red wines with a huge dose of as­trin­gency. The aro­mas are plen­ti­ful— black­berry, straw­berry, cher­ries, rasp­ber­ries with over­tones of herbs, liquorice and roses. Over time, Bar­baresco and Barolo wines ma­ture to re­veal per­fumed aro­mas and flavours such as truf­fles, smoke, leather, tar, vi­o­lets, wild herbs, tobacco, prunes and an­i­mal notes. In short, ex­pect all the hall­marks of a lov­ingly aged fine wine.

But that’s not all. Choos­ing when to en­joy your Neb­bi­olo wine is half the fun. Some Bar­barescos and Baro­los are made in the tra­di­tional style. Here, the wine is kept with skins and seeds for two months, then aged in big old casks made of chest­nut or Slove­nian oak called botti. The liq­uid then slowly ox­i­dizes. What re­sults is a tan­nic and aus­tere wine, with de­light­ful notes of tar, cam­phor, leather and more. These bot­tles are best ap­proached af­ter 10 years.

Then there’s the New Wave Bar­baresco and Barolo. Made in a mod­ern style with fruit flavour in­tact, the wine is aged for a shorter pe­riod in new small oak bar­rels and/ or a blend of new and old oak (French and Slove­nian) bar­rels. With cli­mate change and ris­ing tem­per­a­tures, pro­duc­ers of the New Wave claim that be­ing able to har­vest ripe grapes means that the tra­di­tional method of ex­tended mac­er­a­tion is no longer nec­es­sary. The re­sult­ing wines have creamy, fruity-sweet New World char­ac­ter­is­tics, cou­pled with vanilla, smoke and spice over­tones im­parted by the bar­rels. Best of all, one does not have to wait too long for the wines to con­fer grat­i­fi­ca­tion.

Last but not least, there are the wine­mak­ers perched right in the mid­dle, who be­lieve that the New Wave ap­proach leads to Baro­los and Bar­barescos that are in­dis­tin­guish­able from other New World wines. They be­gan to use pro­duc­tion meth­ods that in­cor­po­rate both the tra­di­tional and the mod­ern. Wines are aged in both the botti and bar­rique, in­cor­po­rat­ing the best of two worlds.

THE WINES OF PIO CE­SARE

One such pro­ducer and es­tate is Pio Ce­sare, one of Alba’s lead­ing winer­ies. Re­cently, fourth gen­er­a­tion Pio Boffa was in Sin­ga­pore to present a work­shop, of­fer­ing an in­sight into Pio Ce­sare sin­gle vine­yards, blends and bar­rel sam­ples.

Pio Ce­sare dates back to 1881 and in his­tor­i­cal terms, is as tra­di­tional as you get. In those days, ev­ery Pied­mont fam­ily had their se­cret recipe of how to pro­duce wine. Grapes were pur­chased from vine­yards in var­i­ous parts of the re­gion. For ex­am­ple, if grapes came from the west­ern hills of Barolo, they were grown on sandy light soil with some stones. The re­sult­ing wine would have a cer­tain fi­nesse, with softer tan­nins and is of­ten ap­proach­able even when young. If grapes were grown on the lime­stone com­pact soils of the east­ern hills, the wines will be con­cen­trated and have heftier tan­nins. Wines would be long age­ing.

Grapes still go through a rel­a­tively long mac­er­a­tion, pre- and post-fer­men­ta­tion, but age­ing is both in small bar­riques com­posed equally of new, one-year-old and two-year-old bar­riques, as well as in the tra­di­tional botti.

Soils are not the only dis­tin­guish­ing fac­tor. Re­search has re­vealed that mi­cro­cli­mate is an­other vari­ant. The west­ern com­mune of La Morra of­fers wines that are of­ten fruity and el­e­gant, thanks to the mod­er­at­ing in­flu­ence (warmth) of the river nearby.

In the east, Ser­ralunga d’Alba and Mon­te­forte d’Alba, the com­mune wines are per­fumed but big and tan­nic, the re­sult of a colder grow­ing area.

By the 20th cen­tury, Pio Ce­sare sought bet­ter con­trol of the fruit source and be­gan ac­quir­ing vine­yards. Pro­duc­tion to­day re­mains at 400,000 bot­tles per an­num, the out­put of a bou­tique win­ery. With to­tal con­trol of the vine­yards, Pio Ce­sare be­gan of­fer­ing sin­gle vine­yard wines.

Wine lovers can en­joy the Pio Ce­sare crus of Barolo Roncaglie (La Morra), Barolo Or­nato (Ser­ralunga d’Alba) and Barolo Mosconi (Mon­forte d’Alba). Pio Boffa ad­mits that these sin­gle vine­yard wines are in­deed com­plex and im­pres­sive. Yet they are not con­sid­ered the flag­ship wines of Pio Ce­sare.

Rather, it is the ‘clas­sic’ Barolo, a blend of five dif­fer­ent com­munes that is the es­tate’s best wine. Each com­mune im­parts the fol­low­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics: Ser­ralunga d’Alba (vine­yards of Cascina Or­nato, La Serra and Bric­col­ina), for struc­ture and longevity; Grin­zane Cavour (vine­yards of Gus­tava and Gar­retti) gives fi­nesse and body; La Morra (Roncaglie vine­yard) brings el­e­gance and im­me­di­acy; Novello (Rav­era vine­yard) of­fers fresh­ness and fruit; last but

not least, Mon­forte d’Alba (Mosconi vine­yard) brings struc­ture and power.

With each com­mune and their sin­gle vine­yards con­tribut­ing unique char­ac­ter­is­tics, the ‘clas­sic’ blended Barolo is the sin­gu­larly most ex­pres­sive and mem­o­rable wine of the Pio Ce­sare es­tate.

The fol­low­ing notes of a ‘ver­ti­cal­hor­i­zon­tal’ tast­ing at­test to this.

BAROLO RONCAGLIE 2016 (SIN­GLE VINE­YARD BAR­REL SAM­PLE)

Fruity with flo­ral char­ac­ter­is­tics, dark ripe cher­ries, dried herbs and a hint of nuts, good struc­ture, long, sweet fin­ish.

BAROLO OR­NATO 2016 (SIN­GLE VINE­YARD BAR­REL SAM­PLE)

At­trac­tive fresh mint and cherry notes, flavour­some with fresh herbs, basil, white pep­per. Big­ger than pre­vi­ous, al­most pow­er­ful and mid-length with lin­ger­ing nu­ances of eu­ca­lyp­tus.

BAROLO MOSCONI 2016 (BAR­REL SAM­PLE)

Fruit and herbs with small fruit dom­i­nat­ing; some pep­per and lots of spice. Bal­anced with fruit sweet­ness, tan­nic struc­ture and some com­plex­ity. De­vel­ops in the glass with vanilla over­tones. A wine for longer mat­u­ra­tion.

BAROLO BLEND OF MOSCONI 2016, RONCAGLIE 2016 AND OR­NATO 2016 (POS­SI­BLE CLAS­SIC BAROLO FOR 2016)

Rem­i­nis­cent of a lighter ver­sion of Mosconi but quite com­pex with good fruit, boiled sweets, herbs spices with fine tan­nins. Po­ten­tial for the long haul.

BAROLO RONCAGLIE 2015

Pur­ple edge and dark core. For­ward sweet fruit in­clud­ing crushed cher­ries and hay. Touch of higher al­co­hol tones add some com­plex­ity. Fine struc­tured tan­nins, ripe and long fin­ish with fruit.

BAROLO OR­NATO 2015

Sweet ripe cher­ries, plums and black fruit. Meaty char­ac­ter­is­tics. Lus­cious with stronger tan­nins and creamy fin­ish.

BAROLO MOSCONI 2015

Com­plex with crushed cher­ries, ripe fruit as well as cooked fruit un­der­lined with leather tones. Black­cur­rant flavours with medium tan­nins and a lifted sweet fin­ish.

BAROLO BLEND OF MOSCONI, RONCAGLIE AND OR­NATO, 2015

Su­perb bal­ance of fruit (cher­ries, cur­rants etc), tan­nins, acid and sweet­ness. El­e­gant and sub­tle, but this wine is no pushover. Tan­nins are fine-grained, am­ple and the wine has a long fin­ish. Ev­i­dent that this wine com­bines the qual­i­ties of the sin­gle vine­yards in its ex­pres­sion.

BAROLO 2013

Sweet fruit, soft tan­nins, com­plex and ut­terly de­li­cious.

BAROLO 2010

Flo­rals giv­ing way to fruit char­ac­ters. Per­fume of or­chids, com­plex­ity in the nose and palate with leather and earth. Ul­tra fine tan­nins, ready to be savoured. Mem­o­rable.

BAROLO 2008

Fruit emerg­ing af­ter per­haps a closed pe­riod. Some flo­rals and meat, and start­ing to show some life. The peak has yet to be reached.

BAROLO 2004

Big mus­cu­lar wine, with cof­fee, meat, ba­nana and mega tan­nins. Thick and tex­tured, with a long fin­ish. Im­pres­sive.

BAROLO 2000

El­e­gant, bal­anced, full flavoured and com­plex. Soft yet with sticky tan­nins and a lightly dry fin­ish. Beau­ti­ful drink. An­other favourite.

Vine­yards lo­cated at the bot­tom of the Cas­tle of Grin­zane Cavour

Top Tast­ing a va­ri­ety of Baro­los

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