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A mixed bag of wines, and memories of Pio Boffa

Happy Shakespeare’s birthday.

I only know this as it also the day that my last-born son chose to enter this world. So that makes tomorrow, April 24, International Sauvignon Blanc Day. But before we get to that I wish to share some sad and unfortunate news.

It is last Saturday and, like many of us, I am watching as the solemn ceremony on the BBC is winding down. I tell my wife that my earliest birthday memory is of being taken to town, by my mother, to watch a splendid fireworks display on White’s Island. I am told that it is to celebrate the marriage that day of a young English princess, who chose my special day to start 73 years with her prince.

Around noon one e-mail comes in that gives me a story running in The Guardian. It tells of a severe frost that has probably destroyed a third of all the early grape vine shoots in France. This will put extreme pressure on future supply and prices.

At about the same time a communication arrives from Italy. By this time I need cheering up, but this was not to be.

“Dear friends, it is with fond sadness and sorrow that we announce the passing of our beloved Pio Boffa early this morning at the age of 66 years old, because of Covid-19 consequences.

“Pio – the fourth generation of Pio Cesare – was a unique example of dedication and commitment to our winery, the wine world and our family, and a great ambassador of the Barolo and Barbaresco region. We thank you very much for your warm sympathy.”

The message came from his daughter, Federica, his nephew, Cesare, and his cousin, Augusto.

I think of only a few weeks ago when I wrote of this “king of barolo” and some of his wonderful wines that had just arrived. I will always remember standing with him deep in the cellar of his winery and having him point out one wall that was constructed by the ancient Romans some 2,000 years ago; also of his tasting with the Bermuda Wine Circle and the many times we met with him at the New York Wine Experience.

My wife and I say goodbye to our very good friend Pio. I know that his family will keep up the fine work!

Now let me tell you about some of the finest sauvignon blanc. We start in the Loire Valley and with my fond memories of tearing down country lanes with Pascal Jolivet in his Maserati.

This is how he describes his two best known wines: “Sancerre wines originate from three soil types – clay, limestone and flint. Sancerre wines are more floral and elegant than wines of the same varietal type in other regions.

“Pouilly fumé wines come from an area located on the right (north) bank of the Loire, which offers a large diversity of subsoils from the Ice Age. Pouilly fumé wines possess characteristic flinty aromas (pierre à fusil), and are slightly rounder and creamier than sancerre wines. The latter, grown on the left (south) bank of the Loire, exhibit more floral aromas and are bone dry."

Pascal uses naturally occurring yeasts and does his best to let the wine make itself in a pure way with little interference from him.

My wife has suggested that we try them side by side this Saturday as this is by far the best way to appreciate the slight differences between these two very fine sauvignon blancs.

Our 2019 Pascal Jolivet Pouilly Fumé (stock #7803) and 2019 Pascal Jolivet Sancerre (stock #7801), both cost $34. Thirty years ago pouilly fumé was more “chic” but now sancerre takes that spot.

Certainly we have to go to New Zealand and I suggest 2020 Auntsfield Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough where intense and pure aromas of fresh passion fruit, ripe melon and lime precede notes of dried herbs, lemon grass, mandarin and blackcurrant that add pungency and intensity to the aromatics.

Powerful, tight and elegant, this wine displays intense ripe fruit flavours of passion fruit and white peach, with citrus notes of lime and mandarin pith. James Suckling awards it 93/100 as he writes: “Very attractive passion-fruit aromas, as well as ripe melon and lime cream. So much going on here. The palate has a big hit of fresh, ripe and juicy passion-fruit and peach flavours. Pleasingly bitter edge to the finish. Tonic-like twist.” $21.30 (Stock #7968).

For those of you who wish for organic, vegan and biodynamic, I must once again briefly mention 2018 Seresin Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc that is brimming with concentrated ripe aromas of warm autumnal fruit interlaced with savoury notes that show the full spectrum of flavours.

Characterised by striking the perfect balance between complexity and drinkability, this sauvignon blanc is highly textured and, above all, delicious and poised. Showing a positive effect from extended ageing on lees and barrel ageing, wild yeast and a splash of sémillon.

Sourced from Seresin's old vines that thrive on river silt terraces in the Central Wairau Valley as well as their clay-rich Raupo Creek vineyard. $27.65 (Stock #8714).

“My father, David Stare, audaciously released the first Sonoma County Fumé Blanc in 1972, and nearly 50 years later, our new 2019 fumé blanc label is yet another innovative step in the pioneering history of our family winery because now, more than ever, we have nothing to hide."

These are the words of Kim Stare Wallace and, as a young man in the Mid-West, her Dad had dreams of making wine in the Loire Valley. Instead, he headed west and became renown for Sauvignon Blanc, that, as is often the custom in California, he called Fumé Blanc. For over forty years I have enjoyed this wine.

Here is what the Wine Spectator thinks of the 2019 Dry Creek Sonoma Fumé Blanc: “91 points. This crisp, intense white offers notes of green apple, lime zest and fresh grated ginger, with plenty of lemon verbena, showing Meyer lemon and tangerine flavours at the core. Impressive for its clarity and mouth-watering finish, on a sleek frame.” $23.50 (Stock #6506).

Sauvignon blanc is quite likely the most popular white wine here and we have many to offer in a wide range of prices.

This column is an advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. Contact Michael Robinson at mrobinson@bll.bm. Burrows Lightbourn have stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554) and Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355). Visit www.wineonline.bm

Winemaker Pio Boffa, 66, died last week of causes related to Covid-19

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Published April 23, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated April 21, 2021 at 9:35 pm)

A mixed bag of wines, and memories of Pio Boffa

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