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Michele Chiarlo Barbera d'Asti La Court 2001
At the production and vineyard level, where quality begins, Michele Chiarlo has for thirty years pursued an endless search for control over the finest vineyard sites in each of the zones from which he produces his wines. Perhaps the crown jewel among these is the vineyard of Fornace di Tassarolo in the Rovereto area of Gavi, a small parcel planted in 1910 which yields a brilliant and intense Gavi of exquisite refinement. He also has long-term agreements with the owners of two spectacular vineyards in the Castiglione Falleto and Serralunga crus of Barolo, from which he produces Barolo Riserva Rocche di Castiglione and Barolo Riserva Vigna Rionda di Serralunga. In addition to these contracts, he has also purchased the Antico Podere Averame in the Cerequio cru of Barolo, considered one of the zone's finest Nebbiolo vineyards; and an estate, also in Barolo in the cru of Cannubi, which due to its extremely sharp gradient had never been cultivated. With considerable capital investment, this vineyard has been terraced and brought into production, the first time such a project has ever been undertaken in Piedmont.
In 1995, Michele Chiarlo acquired the estate of Azienda Agricola Aluffi in Castelnuovo Calcea, considered to the most beautiful and prestigious property in the heart of the classic Barbera d'Asti zone. The estate is comprised of two separate vineyard holdings, La Court and Il Castello, with a total area of 62 acres of which 50 are planted in Barbera vines, quite extensive for this area. The principally southwest and easterly-exposed slopes support superb, calcium and mineral rich soils which are of ideal composition for the production of great Barbera d'Asti.
Michele Chiarlo directly manages or personally oversees every aspect in the production of his wines. Eminently qualified through the expertise acquired through his involvement with the company under his father, he also holds a degree from the prestigious School of Enology at Alba. His ceaseless innovation, both in production and in marketing, has gained him the respesct of his industry.
Best known for sweet, fizzy white wines but also producing some more serious reds, Asti is both a town and a province in the northeastern Italian region of Piedmont. The best vineyard sites are reserved for Barbera, which can produce some of its best and most age-worthy iterations here as Barbera d’Asti. Other red varieties grown here include Freisa, Grignolino, and Dolcetto, which can be bottled varietally or blended into Barbera.
The wines consumers most commonly associate with Asti, however, are Asti (formerly known as Asti Spumante), and Moscato d’Asti. Both are playful, aromatic, and made from the Muscat grape, but Asti is less sweet, fully fizzy, and more alcoholic (yet still clocking in at only around 9% ABV) while Moscato d’Asti is sweeter, gently sparkling (“frizzante”), and closer to 5 or 6% ABV. Each is produced in stainless steel tanks to preserve the fresh and fruity flavors of the grape, which include peach, apricot, lychee, and rose petal.
Friendly, approachable, and full of juicy fruit flavor, Barbera produces wines in a wide range of styles, from young and fruity to serious, spicy, and age-worthy. Piedmont is the most famous source of Barbera, but is also planted in the Italian provinces of Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna. It is one of the most successful and lasting remnants of the Cal-Italian movement, grown throughout the state of California—particularly in the Sierra Foothills—and has also found a foothold in parts of Australia.
In the Glass
Barbera is typically marked by red cherry, raspberry, and blackberry flavors backed by a signature zingy acidity and smooth tannins. More complex examples can include notes of cocoa, savory spice, anise, and nutmeg. In warmer New World climates, Barbera is all about the fruit, sometimes leaning towards over-ripe or dried fruit flavors that can give an impression of sweetness to the wine. Old World Barbera can develop intriguing notes of graphite, smoke, lavender, and violet.
Barbera’s prominent acidity makes it a natural match with tomato-based dishes, therefore making it an easy pairing with a wide array of Italian cuisine. It works just as well with lighter red meat dishes, hamburgers, or barbecue.
Most Barbera wines come from one of two villages in Piemonte—Alba and Asti. Though it is difficult to generalize, typically Barbera d’Asti is softer and more elegant with bright, tangy acidity, while Barbera d’Alba tends to be fuller, rounder, and fleshier.