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Delhi Wine Club

Posted: Monday, February 18 2008. 1:30 PM

Interview: Pio Boffa of Pio Cesare

Climate change and Alcohol levels

One area affecting the Barolo wines is the climate change that is affecting the style of wines. To my apprehension about increasing level of alcohol in Barolos during the last decade or so, he reacted,' I think a lot of this has to do with the climate change. But it has also a lot to do with the increasing opinion that the yields must continue to be brought down to improve quality.'

'The appellation calls for 8000 kg/ hA of fruit. Keeping it at 6000 or even 5600 is logical but boasting of 4000 kg/ hA is too much, 'he says, quoting a Latin proverb, 'Est Modus in Rebus- not excess in everything'.

'The seasons have changed so much over the years and it is getting hotter. Last Monday it snowed for a couple of hours but within 30 minutes it was all gone because of the high temperature. Climate is different than it was 20 years ago.'

He does not mind linking the issue of higher alcohol with over-ripening of the grapes 'It used to be that we used to harvest in October. This year we had to harvest in September because of the early ripening. Each of us has to decide individually how we are going to tackle but I agree with you that we have half a degree more alcohol in our wines now than a few years ago.'

Boffa on Indian wine market

Pio makes 35000 cases of wine including 15000 of Barolo, the others being a bouquet of Piemontese wines that include Barbaresco, Barbera, Dolcetto, Nebbiolo d'Alba Moscato, Gavi etc. 70% of his wines are exported. In fact his family started exported Barolo to UK in the fifties. India is a market that fascinates him and he would like to make more inroads.

'Marketing efforts in India today are the same as they were for us 30 years ago in other countries,' he declares.' I see an incredible explosion in the demand here. I also think there is more demand of quality wines now.'

Pio Cesare at the Hyatt

The dinner at Hyatt was the usual sensory experience. The hotel had used its expertise to create another beautiful setting in the ballroom with the black coloured walls designed perhaps to accentuate the power of Barolos. This was in contrast with the maroonish red background at the Delhi Wine Club dinner a couple of months ago. Different Piemontese wine-related pictures decorating the walls transported you to Piemonte.

Unfortunately, the food did not have the signature Piemontese touch the menu on each table had claimed. The risotto was like a regular La Piazza fare. The ravioli touted as Piemontese by the waiter behind the live counter was no comparison with Agnolotti tradizionali del Piemonte I had enjoyed at Ristorante del Cambio in Torino where Federexport Piemonte had launched the 1861- Italy Food Point promotion, a few days earlier.

But to the credit of the chef, it did match the Barbaresco perfectly. So did the Risotto. Barolo and the lamb chops were like soulmates.

Also missing in the menu was Bollito, the tradition rich typical Piemontese stew made with boiled meats, Grissinis - the best bread sticks you will ever taste and carne cruda (tartar steak), the Piemontese beef specialty made from raw chopped beef with lemon juice and olive oil that you find staring at you at every special Piemontese meal!

To the discerning, this was also an occasion to find the difference between the flavours of Barbaresco and Barolo and paring the different dishes.

Earlier the soup served on the table was accompanied by Gavi which was quite adequate match. But I had recently tasted some excellent Gavi in the town of Gavi, at La Scolca producing excellent, though expensive varieties of the dry white wine from the local Cortese grapes. I still salivate at the thought of flavour-ful Gavi at the beautifully located Morgassi Superiore winery on top of a hill, run by its Milanese octogenarian founder Marino Piacitelli helped by her urbane daughters Cecilia and Marina.

I find it almost sacrilege and unfair to compare Pio Cesare Gavi with their delicious, almost exotic wines.

Missing at the dinner was also Boffa's single vineyard wine, Barolo Ornato from a family-owned site near Serralunga d'Alba, which is produced only in the years of fine vintages. Perhaps, on his next visit, one will have an opportunity to taste this Top Barolo.

Subhash Arora

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