Clerico Barolo 'Ciabot Mentin Ginestra':
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Barolo Ciabot Mentin Ginestra—the house flagship—derives from grapes cultivated in the celebrated Ginestra cru of Barolo’s Monforte d’Alba. Clerico initially purchased 3.3 hectares in Ginestra in 1981, and enlarged his holdings in 2001, with the acquisition of an additional 5.4 hectares. The wine is known for its demonstrative aromatic expression, a quality that is attributed to the vines’ south to southeast exposure and altitude of 300 meters. While Clerico aged Ginestra for a period of time exclusively in 700-liter tonneaux, the current medium employed is barrique (90% of which is new). The Barolo was named for the affable half of the sibling pair—Mentin and Fiore—that owned the property prior to Clerico, as well as the house (ciabot in Pietmontese dialect) that resided in the vineyard.
Rooted at the core of Clerico’s winemaking philosophy is his staunch conviction that the quality of the vines is the sole factor determining a wine’s potential. Clerico regards production techniques as mere tools of the trade as opposed to intrinsic components of the wine itself. Appropriately enough, the producer champions the virtues of terroir by focusing on single-vineyard bottlings that express the merits of distinct sites. Perhaps there’s no better testament to Clerico’s meticulous approach to viticulture than the sign that directs vintners to his cellar door—Domenico Clerico, Viticoltore (i.e., Domenico Clerico, Vinegrower). Clerico’s efforts in the vineyard are tenacious, based on a relentless pursuit of quality. His average yields, in fact, are among the lowest in the region.
While Domenico Clerico will always be a Barolo Boy, he’s matured quite a bit since that revolutionary period in the ’80s, when himself and the other members of Barolo’s backstreet vignerons stripped Barolo of its Slavonian oak and attired it with rich oak trappings and accoutrements. While Clerico was the most lavish at one point in these ministrations, employing 100 percent new barrique for his Barolos, his career has been marked by a shifting stylistic spectrum, a constant probing for the aesthetic that best suits his wines and their terroir. His new barrique-aged Barolos weren’t what he was looking for, coming across as overdone and melodramatic, though his Barolos continue to see a substantive degree of new oak. But Clerico hasn’t just been working out his involvement with barrique. In fact, his work with maceration periods has been, in many respects, far more dramatic than his experimentation with barrique. In 1993, Clerico’s maceration periods ranged from five to eight days. In 2001, that period averaged between 12 and 14 days, going up to 18 in 2006, with a new addition to the Barolo portfolio (from the 2006 vintage, derived from sourced grapes), receiving 23 days of maceration.
This former leading proponent of the modernist movement in Piemonte has evolved, seemingly operating at the extremes of tradition and modernism, and handling the dichotomy with finesse and passion.
Clerico Varietal(s): Nebbiolo
Commune: Monforte d'Alba
Vineyard(s): Ciabot Mentin Ginestra
Altitude: 400 meters
Classification: Barolo DOCG
Case Production: 1,500 (2003 vintage)
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