That’s what happened yesterday when a good friend and former colleague brought a visiting wine producer round to the flat for a tasting. The visit reminded me of some of my favourite moments as a sommelier (second only to conversing with the guests) when suppliers would bring winemakers or their export managers around and we’d taste the wines together. Then they were hoping for a listing on the wine list, now it’s my privilege to tell all of you about the wines – and I couldn’t be more excited to share these with you.
Michele Chiarlo is a producer in the northwest region of Piedmont in Italy. The wines hold a soft spot for me as I had them on my very first wine list as sommelier at the Chesterfield Mayfair many moons ago.
I remember the wines always being a sommelier’s dream trifecta: well-priced (not cheap, but very reasonable for what the wines are), versatile with a range of dishes and extremely interesting and delicious! So to see the wines again after some time was very exciting. If anything, they were better than I remember.
We started with the ‘Le Madri’ Arneis. Other than Gavi (which they also make) Arneis is the grape variety that excels in Piedmont. It’s one of my favourite varieties that’s different to the everyday Sauvignon Blancs and Chardonnays, but popular enough to be found on wine lists and shop shelves.
This one hasn’t touched oak and is pure peaches, pineapple and minerality. The labels are designed by local artists and this one was a perfect match to the wine – cool colours of blues and greens with a touch of silver is a perfect introduction to the wine. With such style on the label and in the bottle, there’s no wonder it’s poured by the glass at 2 Michelin-starred L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon.
Then came the reds, I used to list the Barbera d’Asti which was, and I’m sure still is, such a beautiful wine, but sadly the bottle that day was corked, so instead we started with the Dolcetto d’Alba 2010. I could happily drink this wine every day!
It’s completely unoaked and reminiscent to a Gamay in body and sweet fruit with the addition of earthy complexity. On warm days I’d chill it slightly and enjoy it with or without food – I have a feeling the bottle would disappear all too easily!
The next two wines are the ‘Queen’ and ‘King’ of the range. The 2007 Barbaresco ‘Reyna’ (queen in Italian) and 2007 Barolo ‘Tortoniano’ (which isn’t ‘king’ in Italian, but refers to the geological age of the soil).
What wines! They really take your breath away – or at least they did mine! They are so beautifully made and even though they are impressive, powerful wines – they are so elegant!
Special care is given to the grapes in the vineyard and they very carefully decide the precise moment (not just day, but specific time of day) to harvest to ensure the very best expression of the fruit – and it comes across in the wine. The tannins are so silky, the berry fruit and flavours of violets so perfectly in tune and a finish I can still taste!
The Barolo is the big brother and has all the elegance of the Barbaresco with an extra edge of masculinity. The wine spent 25-26 months in French oak, but it’s so well-integrated that you notice it in structure only. It’s still so young and in 5, 10, and 20 years from now will be an even more spectacular wine.
2007 was an exceptional vintage in Piedmont with sun and rain occurring at all the right times and these wines are showing their appreciation to Mother Nature with their exuberant expression. Look out for the 2007 vintage when shopping for wines from Piedmont.
Lastly we enjoyed sipping the cheerful, apricoty Nivole Moscato d’Asti – a slightly sparkling, slightly sweet wine that I used to list under dessert wines at the restaurant, but actually would be the perfect aperitif. Although at just 5% alcohol, you can have it before dinner, with dessert – or any other time of day!
I am definitely not drinking enough Italian wines and tasting these from Michele Chiarlo have reminded me that I need to start!
Michele Chiarlo wines are supplied in the UK by Hallgarten Druitt and can be found on discerning wine lists and shop shelves.
Which Italian wines have you been enjoying lately? Please leave a comment below, I’d love to hear your stories.
Here’s to trying something new, learning something new and enjoying every glass a whole lot more!
Tara – Wine Passionista
Tags: Arneis, Barbaresco, Barolo, Chesterfield Mayfair, Dolcetto d'Alba, Italian wine, Italy, L'Atelier Joel Robuchon, learn about wine, Michele Chiarlo, Michele Chiarlo Piedmont, Nebbiolo, Wine from Piedmont