It was a flying visit for Pio Boffa, literally. He came only for one night and it was at the Hyatt Regency’s Italian restaurant in Delhi that I met him, says Reva K. Singh. The last time we met was many years ago when his extraordinary wines were being imported by Sovereign Impex. They are now distributed by Prestige Wines. I was happy to be meeting Pio again and drinking with him the wines he makes with such passion along with an excellent meal prepared by Italian Michelin-star chef, Igor Macchia. (More on Igor in Issue 2).
Pictured: Chef Igor with Pio Boffa at La Piazza, Hyatt Regency, New Delhi
Pio is the fourth generation winemaker of his family wines and the great-grandson of Cesare Pio. The family began cultivating grapes in 1881 with an emphasis on quality from the very beginning. Pio is optimistic about the Indian wine market. Chatting with me at dinner he said, “In America they had no knowledge of wine or how to pair wine with food. They were only drinking Martinis and Bourbons, and now, 40 years later, it’s an explosion of restaurants with wine.
“Here in India, I see a tremendous potential,” he continued. “Not in terms of business, I don’t care about the business – I care about the evolution of the culture, a certain way of cultivating a tradition and trying to learn that wine is not just a drink. It’s a way of socializing around the table, a way of appreciating wine with food and food with wine.”
Pio believes wine is the product of “mother nature” and not an industrial product. “It is something that we are doing together with the sky, the rain and the sun… and if you are in symbiosis with mother nature and the soul of the winemaker, there’s integration.”
He realises that this view can be too philosophical for some people, but he is passionate about it. “This is the truth,” he declares, “and the very essence of wine, of fine wine, not mass produced wine. Once people accept this concept and understand the philosophical aspect, it’s the first step towards a big wine culture.”
Above: Pio Boffa with a glass of Pio Cesare Barbaresco wine in his hand
Looking around the restaurant, which was buzzing with happy diners, almost all with a bottle of wine on their table, he says, “Even tonight, if you look around you, there are so many great people in the room but they are not only people in wine. We can see the willingness – the willingness to learn. It’s unbelievable! There is a curiosity about wine in India. That’s my experience and it makes me very happy.”
Pio Boffa’s wine production, in his own words, is tiny – 400,000 bottles of nine or ten different major wines, with 70 ha of vineyards, located in some of the best areas in Piedmont. He says, “The strategy that our family has always followed is to have vineyard sites in different locations in the Barolo and the Barbaresco regions. The wine in the bottle is the result of the quality of the different terroir, which can vary widely, but it carries the style of the family because it comes from our own vineyard locations.”
Piedmont is like Burgundy and its grand crus wines, he explains, which are a product of terroir, soil, vineyard sites and the specific micro climate of that site. This is the uniqueness of the wines of the region. They play the game with different terroirs with only Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and it’s exactly the same for us. We play the game with Nebbiolo and Barbera, that’s it. We never blend the grapes together. But the wine is never boring because each one carries the style of a specific site.” Above: Hazelnut Parfait: an exceptional dessert for an exceptional meal
Barola is about 2,000 ha with more than 3,000 owner growers. These families have lived there for generations and have a direct relationship with their land. Even if they make no money from their holdings and are employed elsewhere, they keep the vineyards. And every weekend, they go back home and grow grapes. It’s part of their culture and their heritage.
It was these cultural insights that Pio Boffa shared with me that night. Not surprisingly, I have never enjoyed my food and wine so much. We drank two whites, Pio Cesare Langhe, Arneis 2010 and Pio Casare Gavi 2010 followed by two reds, Pio Cesare Barbaresco 2007 and Pio Cesare Barolo 2007 and they proved to be the perfect marriage with the dishes prepared by Chef Igor.
Pio invited me to visit the Pio Cesare winery in Piedmont. I promised I would to learn what makes these wines and their terroir so unique.