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Posted: Thursday, 20 December 2018 22:00

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Passing By: Benvenuto to Cesare Benvenuto of Pio Cesare of Piedmont

Dec 20: Cesare Benvenuto, the younger 5th generation family member and partner in Pio Cesare was in India for a couple of days when Sumit Sehgal, VP and All-India Director of Prestige Wines and Spirits, their importers in India hosted an informal tasting and food paring of 3 of their wines at Sly Granny Restaurant in Khan Market, turning the usual formal and staid tasting into a fun event, writes Subhash Arora who feels it was a successful experiment, especially for youngsters

A group of about 30 invitees that included journalists, was very happy to say ‘Benvenuto’ (Welcome) to Cesare Benvenuto who represented the 137 year old winery in Alba-the famous region for Barolo and Barbaresco wines over 100 years ago. In the past, we have met Pio Boffa, the owner; many people mistakenly believe he is the founder. The two –Pio Boffa and Cesare Benvenuto could easily pass off as the founding partners.

Family History

But the winery was founded by Cesare Pio in Alba in 1881. Pio is the 4th generation owner and Cesare is the 5th generation partner-he is Pio’s sister‘s son who joined the family business in 2000. Because of the penchant of Italians keeping their first names of their fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers, Pio and Cesare are two different individuals named after the founder Cesare Pio. Cesare had a son Giuseppe who had a daughter Rosy Pio who married Giuseppe Boffa. Pio Boffa is Giuseppe’s son while Cesare Benvenuto is his nephew. Just so you know Pio Boffa’s daughter is also the 5th generation family member who has joined the business and her name-you guessed it-is Rosy.

Barolo and Barbaresco producer in Alba

Initially, the winery was founded to make top quality Barolo and Barbaresco in Alba which is closer to Barbaresco zone but makes a triangle with Barolo as well. Alba was a progressive city and had several wineries in the city. When Pio Cesare was founded, the wineries were not located outside thevillages like Barolo and Barbaresco because the mode of transportation was railways and the railheads were in big cities like Alba. Now most of the wineries have moved out and closer to vineyards but Pio Cesare decided to stay put in Alba and is perhaps the only winery in the area making Piemontese DOCG wines.

Pio Cesare is allowed to produce Barolo and Barbaresco in Alba before the Appellation laws for DOC were framed in 1966 and subsequently got elevated to the DOCG status in 1980. Even though for registration and respective certification, the grapes must be from the particular region and the bottling must also be in the region of the appellation, wineries like Pio Cesare were allowed to continue theirbusiness from the existing location. Alba is not included in the 11 ‘comunes ‘that form Barolo appellation.

The winery owns 70 hA of land half of which is utilized to make high quality Barbaresco and Barolo. But they also make beautiful Barbera d’ Alba, Gavi di Gavi . It was first introduced in India through now defunct Sovereign Impex and since then Prestige Wines and Spirits has been their Indian distributor.

Pio Wines with food

The afternoon was curated by Sly Granny with a total of 5 dishes including 2 for vegetarians. Wines tasted were Gavi di Gavi 2017, Barbera d ‘Alba 2016 and Barolo 2012. One could taste in any order or sequence, without or with food.

Gavi di Gavi 2017 is of course, one of the prized white wines of Piemonte known more for its red wines. It’s made from Cortese local grape which makes dry, complex wines. Gavi di Gavi means it is made within the classical zone of Gavi where the grapes are of better quality and more expensive and hence it is more expensive. Very clean dry and floral aromas with mineral and rather flinty flavour with spicy end makes it a rather long and complex wine that can age well for years. Made to go with fish- it was a heavenly match with the shrimp dish that already had some citrus flavours.  

Barbera d ‘Alba 2016  Cherry red colour wine with aromas of red fruit was a very elegant and well structured wine with fuller body and complexity that comes with the grapes being from Barolo area and subtle use of oak. It has ripe fruit and smooth taste that lingers on and you just cannot keep the open bottle away. Again it was very well matched with cheese and tomato with bread and equally well-almost better with Chicken Liver pate.  Actually, it is also quite a versatile wine.

Barolo 2012 This full body wine is still a bit young and even with decanting, it kept on getting better with aeration in the glass. Great structure, masculine wine with silky tannins and persistent, juicy taste and a bit of fresh acidity in the backbone, makes this wine taste even better when well-matched and duck tostada did just that. Intense bouquet and rose bouquet add to its charm. This one will be a winner in 3-5 years time and drinking at its best though drinkable even now with proper service.

Kudos to Sly Granny and Prestige for making it a very interesting, fun afternoon, bonding over wine and carrying on conversation that included the food-wine pairing as well. It’s a new restaurant and it is commendable to see the enthusiasm of the staff in trying to give an excellent experience, and succeeding. It offers a great spot for such tastings to small and compact groups and one hopes to see more such tastings here in future.

For earlier Articles, please visit:

Passing By: Pio Boffa from Piemontese Pio Cesare

Passing By: Pio Boffa of Pio Cesare in Piedmont

Interview: Pio Boffa of Pio Cesare

Subhash Arora


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