Two Piedmont Reds: Michele Chiarlo Barbera d'Asti Le Orme & Barolo Tortoniano - IntoWineTV Episode 119

In this episode of IntoWineTV, host Lisa Kolenda and wine experts Edward Ruiz, Cezar Kusik, and Bartholomew Broadbent convene at one of San Francisco's finest restaurants, Incanto, to taste and discuss Piedmont Reds.

Theme: Piedmont Reds

Wines:

Michele Chiarlo Barbera d'Asti Le Orme 2006 ($14), 100% Barbera, Alcohol: 13%

Michele Chiarlo Barolo Tortoniano 2005 ($50), 100% Nebbiolo, Alcohol: 13.5%

Region: Piedmont

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Background:
Michele Chiarlo Barbera d'Asti Le Orme - The Barbera is one of the most widely planted grape varieties in Italy, and with the Dolcetto, is the representative vine of Piedmont. It accounts for 52 percent of the region's acreage under vine, and nearly half the total annual production of red wine, averaging 2,457,000 hectolitres. There is a proliferation of Barberas produced within Piedmont, designated according to geographic area, as well as a number of new wines based on the Barbera grape which are vinified white, rose and sparkling in various degrees of sweetness. However, only four Barbera wines have been given D.O.C. status: those of Alba, Monferrato, Colli Tortonesi and Asti, grown in the provinces of Cuneo, Alessandria and Asti, in southern Piedmont. Together, they comprise only fifteen to twenty-five percent of the annual Barbera production. Although the Barbera vine is believed to have originated in the Monferrato area from a spontaneous cross of seeds from ancient vines, it is generally agreed that the area producing the best Barbera wines is that of Asti. This small zone immediately surrounds and extends to the north of Asti, Nizza Monferrato and Calamandrana. The excellent southerly-exposed vineyards, lying on limestone and clay soils, produce the most elegant and refined of all Barberas, which in lesser designations can be rustic, acidic wines. Michele Chiarlo selects his Barbera d'Asti 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. Michele Chiarlo selects his Barbera d'Asti from the best vineyards in the north of Asti, Nizza Monferrato and Calamandrana; planted in older vines, harvested at peak maturity and then vinified at the Chiarlo cellars in Calamandrana.

Michele Chiarlo Barolo Tortoniano - The vineyards of Barolo are clustered principally on the steep, southerly-exposed Langhe hills in the communes of Barolo, La Morra, Castiglione Falletto, Monforte d'Alba and Serralunga d'Alba, in southeastern Piedmont. Though these communes are quite extensive, Nebbiolo is planted only in their better-situated vineyards, and occupies only about 2,900 acres comprised of over 1,100 individual plots. The Barolo zone is naturally divided by a geological barrier running north to south, which separates the communes of Barolo and La Morra, in the west, from Castiglione, Serralunga and Monforte, in the east. Soils on both sides of this barrier are calcareous marl of marine origin; but while those on the eastern side, referred to as "helvetian," show a significant iron content, the soils on the western side are differentiated by an elevated magnesium and manganese content, and are referred to as "tortonian." Barolos from the helvetian areas are the more robust, highly-colored and tannic, with greater body and longevity; Barolos from the tortonian areas are fragrant, graceful and elegant wines approachable earlier in their evolution.

Michele Chiarlo has technologically refined traditional vinification methods to produce a Barolo of greater elegance and accessibility at an earlier age but without sacrifice of structure and dimension. His principal focus, however, is on the inherent quality of the soil, the vineyard site and exposure, and the vine. Cluster thinning and harvesting the grapes an average of 10 to 15 days later than most producers yields fruit higher in sugar and concentration and lower in total acidity. Vinification is carried out under strictly controlled temperatures, and malolactic fermentation is carried out during the spring to further reduce acidity. Barrel aging, the length of time of which is determined according to the wine's intended ranking, is accomplished primarily in Slavonian oak, with selective lots aged in French Allier oak. The wines are then bottle-aged in the Chiarlo cellars under perfectly stable conditions of temperature and humidity. The resulting wine is garnet red in color, with orange highlights that become slightly amber with age. Full, dry, austere and rather harsh when very young, this superb Barolo becomes rich and velvety with age, very harmonious and elegant. It exhibits a distinct bouquet of violets or rose petals, with seductively earthy, slightly musky undertones.

Experts:

Edward Ruiz, Wine Director at San Francisco's Incanto Restaurant

Cezar Kusik, Fine Wine Specialist, Fourcade & Hecht Wine Selections.

Bartholomew Broadbent, CEO of Broadbent Selections. Bartholomew was named as one of the "fifty most influential people in the wine world" by Decanter Magazine. He is also widely considered to be one of the world's foremost authorities on Port and Madeira. Learn more about Bartholomew Broadbent.

Location: Incanto Italian Restaurant & Wine Bar, Situated in the heart of one of San Francisco's most charming residential neighborhoods, Incanto's rustic Italian setting, with its handcrafted stone, antique brick and woodwork, 16th century Latin parchments, and private dining room dedicated to poet Dante Alighieri, provides a uniquely warm and inviting dining environment.

Incanto's daily-changing menu honors old-world traditions including house-cured meats, unusual regional pastas, fresh local seafood and a commitment to sustainably grown and harvested produce. Incanto's award-winning wine program features one of the most diverse Italian wine lists in the United States and an ever-changing lineup of more than twenty wines by the glass, half-glass, half-liter, and flight.