A crisp afternoon with Cesare Benvenuto of Pio Cesare

Is it necessary to have fine wines only with elaborate meals? Wine and food may surely be a matter of deliberation, but most wine lovers would agree that there are no boundaries when it comes to deriving pleasure out of one’s favourite wines.

Subscribing to this thought, Prestige Wines and Spirits– a prominent Indian importer of fine wines and spirits – has of late, been conducting “no frills” wine tastings around visits by winery representatives. The sessions called Premium Wines the Easy Way, aim at optimising wine enjoyment sans the lengthy rigmarole often associated with wine engagements.

Premium Wines the Easy Way is about wine enjoyment in a casual way rather than sticking to the sit-down dinner format.  Though we have done various formal events and will continue to do so, I feel that the younger generation wants an informal experience to get onto wine in a more casual and lesser intimidating way. Our  approach aligns well with getting Indians to drink wine with abandon and not just appreciate it.

– Sumit Sehgal, Director, Prestige Wines and Spirits Private Limited

A recent such session saw Cesare Benvenuto– the fifth generation member of Pio Cesare family- arrive on his first ever official trip to the country. With some inspiring Pio Cesare wines being poured at Sly Granny– a pleasant Bistro in the upscale Khan Market in the Indian capital- Benvenuto shared many stories about his famed winemaking house, enlightening the audience about its 137 years old legacy.


The Pio Cesare Story

Located in the center of the town of Alba, Pio Cesare is a famed winemaker from Piedmont, Italy. The house was founded in 1881, by Cesare Pio who started producing small quantities of wines from the hills of Barolo and Barbaresco for himself, his family, friends, and customers. Over the years, Cesare built a thriving business that encouraged him to venture out into the overseas markets as well.

Pio Cesare- The founding father

Cesare’s son, Giuseppe Pio, the second generation, inherited a successful wine business at the turn of the century. He continued with his father’s passion, investing in the expansion of the cellars and the trade, that further made Pio Cesare a benchmark brand for the wines of the region.

In the third generation, Giuseppe Pio’s only child Rosy married Giuseppe Boffa, a well-known engineer from Alba, who managed a large company in Milan at that time. As a fallout of the Second World War, Boffa decided to leave his job in Milan to dedicate himself to the Pio Cesare winery. There on, Pio Cesare brand gained even greater fame and prominence both domestically and internationally with a special focus on its renowned Barolo.

The Pio Cesare family owns around 70 hectares (173 acres) of vineyards with great exposures in the most highly rated regions of Piedmont. Out of these, 32 hectares are in Barolo, 27 in Barbaresco and 11 hectares elsewhere in the region.

Clockwise from left: Pio Cesare vineyards in Barolo, Barbaresco and elsewhere in Piedmont and their cellar in Alba.

The current order at Pio Cesare

Today, Pio Boffa, fourth generation and the son of Rosy and Giuseppe Boffa , leads and directs the company. He is actively assisted in the business by Cesare Benvenuto, who is his sister’s son. Pio Boffa’s young daughter Federica Rosy, has recently joined the family business, representing the future of the family.

Pio Cesare Family Today: (L-R) Pio Boffa, Federica Rosy and Cesare Benvenuto. Pic: Pio Cesare

Some of Pio Cesare cellars are located in the historical centre of the town of Alba were built at the end of the 1700s. The cellars are surrounded by the ancient Pompeii Roman walls, which date back to 50 B.C. and are its main foundations. Situated on four different ground levels, one of  them is even lower than the Tanaro River. The cellars benefit from naturally constant temperatures and optimal humidity crucial for the style and quality of their wines over the years.

A tasting with a perspective

At the New Delhi tasting, three out of four Pio Cesare wines available in India viz Gavi, Barbera d’Alba and Barolo were served . Barbaresco (Mumbai Retail Price ₹ 12500) being not registered in the city was excluded from the tasting (for the uninitiated, India has separate label registration norms for each of its States so a label not registered in a particular State cannot be legally served there).

Pio Cesare Gavi DOCG 2017 

Grape: 100% Cortese

Delhi Retail Price: ₹ 5000

A crisp wine with ripe stone fruit aromas. Clean on the palate with flavours of green apple, pears and a touch of salt. It comes across as a complex age-worthy wine. The wine blended seamlessly with the satisfying shrimp bowl meal served alongside.

Pio Cesare Barbera d’Alba DOC 2016

Grape: 100% Barbera

Delhi Retail Price: ₹ 5000

The grapes for this wine come from Pio Cesare vineyards in the Barolo and the Barbaresco regions. Pio Cesare Barbera d’Alba 2016 had deep ruby colour with aromas of ripe red berries and spice. On the palate it was full bodied, juicy and delicious with soft tannins. A pleasure to drink solo as well as with food.

Pio Cesare Barolo DOCG 2012

Grape: 100% Nebbiolo

Delhi Retail Price: ₹ 14750

It’s not for nothing that Barolo wines are called the “King of Wines and the Wine of Kings”. Pio Cesare Barolo is no exception to the legend. The wine is a blend from different estates of the winemaker in the classic Barolo style and it has been produced in that manner right since the beginning.

I found Pio Cesare Barolo 2012 to be very expressive on the nose. The wine was well structured on the palate with smooth tannins and abundant dark berries, finishing on a lingering note. The organisers were quite precise in decanting the wine for an hour plus before it was served . It was clearly my favourite wine of the day and I was lucky enough to get a refill before the decanter went back on the kitchen trip.

During the event, Cesare Benvenuto highlighted many aspects that make Pio Cesare  wines enjoy a special stature among discerning wine lovers- one of them being their focus towards quality rather than quantity. To that end, they have been restraining vineyard yields, employing the same workforce throughout the entire vegetative cycle, and intervening least with nature. A definite plus is that the Pio Cesare wines are also certified as having no residual chemicals.

With a lot packed in the two hours or so that we spent with Cesare Benvenuto, it was a highly enriching session to learn and appreciate Pio Cesare wines like never before.

The aim of the  organisers been served well.

Col Joe
wirtten by: Col Joe
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