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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Wine: The Wines of Pio Cesare


Pio Cesare vines in Alba.

Yesterday we read the first half of the wine column Annechino on Vino, written by my friend Joe, in which he lets us join him on his day trip to Alba, in the heart of Piemonte's wine country. Today let's continue with the second half, in which Joe tells us about some of the wines produced by the Pio Cesare vineyard.

Part 2... The Wines of Pio Cesare

One of the oldest operations in the area was started in 1881 by a fellow named Cesare Pio. But the walls within which he worked are even older. They were built back in the 1st century -- B.C.! Today, another Cesare, the fifth generation of the family, manages more modern facilities. Among them are new fermentation, racking, and aging areas -- one of which lies some 40 feet under the ancient building that dates from the era of the Roman Empire.

Although the Pio Cesare company owns over 130 acres of vineyards, it also closely supervises the work of associate growers from whom it continues to purchase crops, as it has for a number of generations. Each area has superior characteristics and is widely recognized by its own name. For example:

Barbera d'Alba, made from 100% Barbera grapes grown in the Barolo area and aged for 18 months. Its blackberry and plum aromas are quite prominent.

Gavi (or Cortese di Gavi). The vineyards are in the Gavi area; the wine is 100% Cortese grapes. It's a particularly pleasing pick.

Dolcetto d'Alba, a fresh, fragrant, and spicy wine made from 100% Dolcetto grapes. It's a great mate with pasta pomodoro, tomato, one of my favorites.

Moscato d'Asti, world famous for its fruity flavor, this is a familiar favorite due to its frizzante, bubbly, finish.

Pio Cesare Barolo, an Italian classic, made entirely from Nebbiolo grapes. It's one of those wines which, like us, gets even better with age.

Other prominent Pio Cesare products include those from the famous family-owned Ornato and Il Bricco estates, touted as "top vineyards in the whole Barolo area." Among the most notable are their Barbaresco and "Piodilei" Chardonnay, a wonderful white wine made from grapes of their very first Chardonnay vines.

Pio Cesare also produces wines made from Freisa, Arnese, and Grignolino grapes. These last three are not readily available in all parts of the U.S. That's unfortunate, because my experience with the Grignolino del Monferrato Casalese was uniformly memorable due to its peppery aroma and raspberry flavor.

With so many Barbaresco and Barolo wines available with top-tier ratings, those of Pio Cesare offer solid value, without top-tier pricing. Try them and see if you agree.

Fearing we'd find no fulfilling alternative to simply hanging close to the airport, wasting a whole day, we began to doubt the wisdom of getting there before the last minute. But after Alba we were convinced that, as usual, it's better to be early. On future trips, we'll again be allotting an extra day.


Read Part 1 of The Wines of Pio Cesare here.


Pio Cesare Langhe Nebbiolo



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