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Michele Chiarlo Le Orme Barbera d'Asti Superiore 2000
Michele Chiarlo selects his Barbera dAsti from the best of these vineyards planted in older vines and harvested at peak maturity. Vinified at the Chiarlo cellars in Calamandrana, the wine undergoes malolactic fermentation and is then aged a least one year in oak. The result is a brilliant ruby-red wine with an intense yet airy, vinous bouquet and a medium-bodied, bone-dry robustness that is exceptionally pleasant on the palate. The best vintages, with age, tend to garnet in color, and show a velvety, harmonious quality of considerable elegance.
The wine producing firm of Michele Chiarlo was founded in 1956 by the sole and present owners, Michele and Giuseppina Chiarlo. Son of over seven generations of esteemed wine growers, Mr. Chiarlo is today one of the most respected producers of the fine wines of Piedmont and a leading figure in its viticultural industry.
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.
Recognized as the source of the best Barbera in all of Italy, Asti is a province (as well as major city) in Piedmont, consisting of a gentle, rolling landscape with vineyards, farmland and forests alternating throughout.
Barbera d’Asti can be made in an array of styles from relatively straightforward, fruity and ready for consumption early, to the more concentrated, oak aged version with an ability to cellar impressively for 10-15 years and beyond. Some of the very best sites for Barbera in Asti are concentrated in the subzone of Nizza Monferrato. Other red varieties grown here include Freisa, Grignolino and Dolcetto, which can be bottled varietally or blended into Barbera.
Historically consumers commonly associated the Asti region with Asti Spumante and Moscato d’Asti, both playful, aromatic, sparkling wines made from the Muscat grape. Asti Spumante is less sweet, fully fizzy and more alcoholic (yet still clocking in at only around 9% alcohol) while Moscato d’Asti is sweeter, gently sparkling (“frizzante”) and closer to 5 or 6% alcohol. Each is produced in stainless steel tanks to preserve the fresh and fruity flavors of the grape, often including peach, apricot, lychee and rose petal. Asti is also the spot for the pink-hued Brachetto d'Acqui, a slightly sparkling wine ready to charm with its raspberry and rose flavors and aromas.
Friendly, approachable and full of juicy red fruit, Barbera produces wines in a wide range of styles, from youthful, fresh and fruity to serious, structured and age-worthy. Piedmont is the most famous source of Barbera, but it is also planted in a few nearby Italian provinces and remains one of the most widely planted varieties in the country. Barbera actually can adapt to many climates and enjoys success in California—particularly in the Sierra Foothills—and some southern hemisphere wine regions.
In the Glass
Barbera is typically marked by flavors of red cherry, raspberry or blackberry and backed by a signature zingy acidity. Warmer sites produce Barberas with intensely ripe fruit and complex notes of cocoa, savory spice, anise and nutmeg. Cooler sites will produce a lighter Barbera with more finesse and intriguing notes of cranberry, graphite, smoke, lavender and violet.
Barbera’s prominent acidity makes it a natural match with tomato-based dishes, 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.
In the past it wasn’t common or even accepted to age Barbera in oak but today both styles—oaked and un-oaked—abound, at least in Piedmont. In fact, many Piemontese producers today still make a deliciously pure, fruity and un-oaked version, intended for earlier consumption. The wine world didn't realize Barbera's potential until the work of Giacomo Bologna in Asti in the 1960s. His debut of the barrique-aged Barbera called Bricco dell’Uccellone revealed this grape's true potential. Many of the better bottlings of Piemontese Barbera can age gracefully for 10-15 years or more.