In a world that seems to increasingly regard superficiality as a virtue, it is refreshing to attend a celebration of genuine talent and impressive longevity. The words icon and legend are often tossed around too casually but they authentically apply to winemaker Michele Chiarlo. His namesake winery in Piedmont, in the north of Italy, is world-renowned for its elegant and exceptional wines. Mr. Chiarlo was recently in New York City to celebrate a tremendous milestone - his 60th harvest and the 40th anniversary of the partnership with his importer in the United States, Kobrand.
If you meet someone that has a bottle of Michele Chiarlo's 1978 Granduca Barolo in their cellar, be nice and hope they share. This exquisite wine shows the impressive aging power of Barolo.
With his winemaker son Stefano by his side, Mr. Chiarlo shared stories of his early visits to the United States, decades ago, when most Americans had no idea of what Barolo was. My how times have changed, in no small part as a direct result of Mr. Chiarlo's talent and Kobrand's commitment to making Barolo available to American consumers. Today Barolo, the king of wines and the wine of kings, is among the most coveted by wine lovers. Although rooted in tradition and specialists in the 4 grapes that are the most important Piedmont varietals (Nebbiolo, Barbera, Cortese, and Moscato), it was Chiarlo's embrace of innovation that set him apart from the rest and helped to secure Piedmont's status as one of the world's greatest wine regions. Chiarlo expertly improved winemaking technique while retaining his commitment "to respect the character of the wine."
A view of the Michele Chiarlo vineyards
"Piemonte is a special region with a special terroir," said Mr. Chiarlo of the mountainous region where the family owns 148 hectares of estate vineyards, including the renowned vineyards of La Court, Cerequio, and Cannubi. If you're ready to explore the wines of Piemonte, Michele Chiarlo is a very fine way to begin your tasting journey. Beautifully crafted yet not overly manipulated, Michele Chiarlo's wines have a sense of place and express his 60 years of commitment to bottling the very best that his land offers. I recommend starting with two Michele Chiarlo wines: Cipressi Barbera Nizza DOCG 2015 and Barolo Cerequio DOCG 2013.
Cipressi Barbera Nizza DOCG 2015 ($27.99)
Cipressi's name and label are inspired by the Cypress trees atop one of the hills on the Chiarlo estate. 100% Barbera, this pretty ruby-red wine has refreshing acidity and low tannins. A sweet sensation on the nose but delightfully dry with fresh red berry flavors and a hint of savory licorice and spice. (Available in the US starting March 2018)
Cerequio Barolo DOCG 2013 ($100.99)
A stellar example of a single-vineyard Barolo, Cerequio's soil composition and mild climate make it one of the most prestigious crus of the Langhe zone. Quite young by Barolo standards, the 2013 already displays great balance between fruit, tannins, and spice. Based on the magical 1997 and 1978 Chiarlo vintages that I tasted, this 2013 has a long and beautiful life ahead.
Click here to learn more about Michele Chiarlo wines and how to book tours and tastings at their estate in Piedmont.