NEWSPio Boffa lost the fight against Covid-19

Pio Boffa lost the fight against Covid-19

The visionary leader and patriarch of the historic Piedmont wine trade and winery Pio Cesare passed away last weekend after a two-week battle against Covid-19. He was 66 years old. He had been hospitalized since early April. Shortly before his death, his family was still confident and expected him to recover soon.

ITALY (Alba) – In the famous wine town Alba in the southern Piedmont, people were shocked by the news, mourning spread last weekend among family, friends and in the wine scene also outside Italy. Boffa’s death came after several lockdowns in Italy, during which he was upset about the travel ban because he could not visit his customers. “He was like a lion in a cage. He was really upset about having to stay in the office. He was used to traveling 200 days a year. That was his life,” said his daughter and only child, Federica Boffa (23), describing the situation.

Pio Boffa was an auratic personality and highly respected in Barolo. A fourth-generation winemaker, Boffa spent four decades molding Pio Cesare from what was once a thriving wine trade into a high-end winery. He traveled the world as a tireless ambassador for Piedmontese wines. Pio Boffa was also one of the first from Piedmont to promote his wines in the 1980s, first to Germany, then to the USA and Canada. He always held the view that his Barolo Pio should remain a cuvée from different sites of the entire area, on the other hand, he launched with his Ornato one of the first Barolo from a single vineyard.

The respected patriarch passed away just two months before the release of two limited bottlings to celebrate the 140th anniversary of the winery. The launch of his Barolo Riserva 2000 and a 2017 cuvée of grapes sourced from four vineyards in Serralunga d’Alba will be overseen by Frederica, now the fifth generation to take over the business with the help of her cousin, Cesare Benvenuto (47). Pio Cesare produces around 360,000 bottles, divided among 12 wines with medium to small production volumes. About 80 percent of these are exported.

Foundation and history

The winery was founded by Cesare Pio, maternal great-grandfather of Pio Boffa, in 1881, when the story of the estate began in an old cellar in the center of Alba. It was not long before the first awards for Cesare’s wines made the estate famous in the region. Further medals at international competitions contributed to the international fame, as did Pio Cesare’s philosophy, which remains unwavering to this day: quality always trumps quantity.

Pio Boffa was born in Alba in 1954. His two siblings had no interest in the family business, but it was different for him. Immediately after graduating from school, he was driven to California’s Napa Valley, where he learned viticulture and vinification at the Robert Mondavi Winery. Back in Piedmont in the 1970s, he began a business degree, which he didn’t complete because he was drawn to the family business. He was eager to explore the business that his father Giuseppe was running at the time. His strong will and drive were convincing. As a result, the family decided to expand their vineyards.

Over the next decade, Boffa took over the family business and established the first single vineyards. He also convinced his father to cultivate a plantation of Chardonnay. This drive subsequently produced the 1985 Ornato Barolo and Langhe Piodilei Chardonnay, followed by Barbaresco Il Bricco in 1990.

In 2014, Boffa celebrated its 60th birthday and gifted itself with some 25 hectares of old vineyards cultivated in Monforte d’Alba’s Mosconi (DOCG) between 1940 and 1960. Grapes from here formed the basis for the site wines Barolo Mosconi (first vintage 2015) and Fides Barbera d’Alba Superiore “Vigna Mosconi” (from 2017).

Pio Boffa Pio Cesare
Pio Boffa: Patriarch and highly respected personality has passed away. (Photo: Pio Cesare)

Statement for the Barolo region

Boffa was quoted in the Italian Gazettes shortly before the pandemic: “It was never my intention to claim that bottlings from single vineyards were better than classic Barolo. Our philosophy is still for blends from single vineyards versus a single site wine. Single-vineyard wines may be brilliant and excellent, but our company still stands for expressing the uniqueness and exceptionality of the entire Barolo region.”

Despite his love of the region, Boffa was open to innovation. Blends of Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo were a viable path for him, despite his commitment to tradition. His last project, with the support of his daughter and nephew, was to revive the long abandoned family tradition regarding the production of a Barolo-based wine flavored with herbs, called Barolo Chinato.

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