Image via the Pio Cesare Instagram.
This week, the world of Italian wine mourns the loss of Pio Boffa (above), the fourth generation to lead the historic Pio Cesare winery in Langa, producer of top Barolo and Chardonnay.
See Robert Camuto excellent obituary for Wine Spectator, “Pio Boffa, Piedmont Wine Patriarch, Dies of COVID-19.”
“It takes a great man to show support for a next generation of enthusiasts,” she wrote. “He was one of those men. He will be missed.”
“For roughly four decades, he was a central figure of Italian wine,” wrote the editors of Gambero Rosso. “He wrote some of the most important pages of its history.”
Together with a small group of determined Langa winemakers, Pio was among the first to travel extensively in the U.S. as he sold his labels and educated trade members and consumers about Nebbiolo and the wines of Piedmont. Today, Barolo is widely considered to be one of the world’s greatest wines. Back in the 1980s and 90s when he started coming to the U.S., it was a total unknown in most fine wine circles. He helped to change that by visiting not just New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. A visionary for what Barolo could become in this country, he also made a point of visiting then secondary markets like Texas, for example.
His uncanny sense of the U.S. fine wine scene also led him to offer some of his wines at prices that made then even more appealing to restaurateurs — the exact opposite of what some of his peers did. If Barolo is widely known and consumed in the U.S. today, it is in great part thanks to his Herculean efforts combined with his larger-than-life personality.
I had the great fortune to interact with Pio on a number of occasions when I was writing for his then U.S. importer. Even though our conversations were supposed to be “all business” (he was a very busy man, after all), his flair and verve in speaking about his wines were as thrilling as the wines themselves. I always came away from our talks and tastings feeling like my Barolo knowledge had been exponentially expanded. I most recently tasted his wines when I presented the winery together with his daughter Federica at the Grandi Marchi tasting in Houston in 2018. A great family of great wine professionals.
Barolo has lost one of its guiding lights. He will be sorely missed.
Sit tibi terra levis Pie.