The Michele Chiarlo Story
The view from Stefano Chiarlo’s home is pretty close to idyllic. Plum in the middle of the prize Cerequio vineyard, nestled in the protected slope below the hilltop town of La Morra, with a stunning view across the valley to Castiglione Falletto, with hills carpeted in vines and valleys filled with dark-green hazelnut trees.
This is Barolo country, where the nebbiolo vine is king. The Cerequio cru is 16 hectares, of which Stefano’s winery Michele Chiarlo (tastings) owns six and leases 3.5 hectares. Cerequio (tastings) is Chiarlo’s signature wine.
The Chiarlo family has been growing vines in Piedmont for seven generations, and its home turf is Asti where it grows mainly barbera and moscato. The winery was started by Michele Chiarlo, Stefano’s father, in 1956, and in 1958 he bought his first Barolo and Barbaresco grapes. Stefano’s first vintage was 1984 and five years later he bought his first piece of ‘cru’ vineyard, in Cannubi. Today, the company produces 100,000 cases, mostly Barbera d’Asti and Gavi. It owns or controls the grapes from 110 hectares of vines. Most of the leased vineyards are in Asti and Barbaresco.
Stefano is committed to sustainable viticulture: his vineyards have been ‘sustainable’ since 2006 and the first plots were certified in 2010. He uses no inorganic fertilisers or herbicides, and only copper and sulfur sprays for fungal diseases. He plants cover-crops of fava beans and his carbon footprint reduction extends to using lighter weight bottles.
Michele Chiarlo under Stefano’s leadership hangs its hat on Barolo Cerequio. He is a big fan. “The tortoniano soil of Cerequio is very high in magnesium. It has four times the usual concentration.” He speculates that this special soil contributes freshness and ‘balsamic’ notes to the wine. The wine is aged for two years in 700-litre barrels of which one-third are new. The first vintage was 1988.
In a tasting of six back-vintages of Cerequio, the 2004 and 2001 stood out. The ’04 was a magnificent wine, which came up in the glass spectacularly, while the ’01 was fully mature. Both were very complex, great wines.
I admit to having been a little up-and-down on Chiarlo’s wines over the years but when they’re on song they’re superb. The ’09 is a very delicious wine, while I’m not totally convinced of the ’10 Cerequio and will seek to taste another bottle.
Michele Chiarlo has been imported into Australia for many years by the Polese restaurant family, of Beppi’s fame.