For many, summer is synonymous with travel, food, and of course, wine, and here at the Keeper Collection, it is no exception. We started our summer travel early with 2 weeks in Italy, including a week to explore Emilia Romagna.
Tasting at Cleto Chiarli with Tommaso Chiarli
Having learned from Dalla Terra Founder Brian Larky a past featured guest on #SommChat, (see his chat here) we knew a visit to Cleto Chiarli, a celebrated winery in the Lambrusco di Grasparossa region, was a must. We first were introduced to Cleto Chiarli during our 2013 Somms Under Fire event by Master Sommelier Craig Collins, Beverage Director of ELM Restaurant Group. Craig suggested we feature Vecchia Modena, so people could see a great Lambrusco, and he was right. A visit to the winery, led by a member of the 5th generation, Tommaso Chiarli, was just what we needed to learn more about what can be done to make really good Lambrusco wines for all to enjoy.
Hailing from Modena where Cleto Chiarli himself began selling Lambrusco in the 1860s, the company has flourished in the past century and a half, yet still remains true to its familial roots. Excellence, history, tradition and quality are key factors in Cleto Chiarli’s mission. The family continues to oversee the winemaking process from start to finish: from overseeing the vineyards, harvesting the grapes and managing the bottling and aging processes. The company has likewise been fundamental to the resurgence of interest in renewing and emphasizing the value and prestige of Lambrusco wines, as seen in this NY Times article.
Tommaso was a great host for our visit as he took the time to discuss viticulture with a walk in the vineyards,
production in the new winery,
and of course, tasting of their acclaimed wines.
During our visit to Cleto Chiarli, it was very interesting to learn about two different fermentation methods used in Lambrusco production, the Charmat Method and Classic Method. It is said that the Charmat method first began in 1895 and then was adapted by Eugene Charmat in 1907. The concept behind the Charmat method was to speed up the second fermentation (in which the bubbles are created), moving it to big steel tanks rather than allowing it to occur naturally in the bottle.
This allowed producers to more easily control the sparkling wine process. Tommaso explained that the young, fresh wines use the single fermentation process, where yeast is left in the bottles in order to produce the wine’s fizz.
The grounds, buildings, and tasting room at Cleto Chiarli offer a lovely setting to visit, learn, and taste the wines from their Lambrusco vineyards, as can be seen in this image gallery. Thanks to Tommaso for his patience and depth of knowledge that allowed us to learn about these special wines.
Blanc de Blancs Brut
This wine has a 2-3 month fermentation time, and soon will arrive in US for the 1st time. This blends two grapes, Pignoletto and Chardonnay.
Brut de Noir Rosé
This is the best selling Cleto Chiarli wine currently in US. It is a blend of 85% Grasporossa and 15% Pinot Noir. Tommaso explained that there is no skin contact at any time, with 12 grams of residual sugar. How very refreshing this tasted, with and without food.
This wine had a delicate, light structure, yet with body. This is their most ancient label dating back to 1900 in Paris. Tommaso noted this is good to pair with cold cured meats.
Lambrusco Sobarra del Fondatore
This wine is made using techniques from both the modern and old Charmot fermentation methods. Tests are done in the lab and sugar is added to make this wine, using a single fermentation that results in flavor on the palate and aromatics on the nose.
Deep red, but lighter wine made from single-vineyard Grasparossa grapes, bright blackberry and raspberry fruit.
New York Times wine writer, Eric Asimov, selected this wine as his No. 1 choice of Lambrusco during a blind tasting in 2012. Asimov wrote the following in his article: “Our No. 1 bottle was the Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro Pruno Nero from Cleto Chiarli, an energetically fruity yet balanced wine that embodied all the buoyant refreshment I could ask for in a Lambrusco. At $18, it also was our best value.”
We asked Master Sommelier Craig Collins for his insights today on Cleto Chiarli and Lambrusco after developing the Italian Wine list for Italic Restaurant in Austin, and here’s what he shared: “Cleto Chiarli is one of the premier producers of Lambrusco, highlighting what makes this grape and region exciting! Delicious and food friendly, Lambrusco should be on every wine lover’s radar for the summer.”
Whether you have had Lambrusco in the past, or if you have never tried it, look for Cleto Chiarli in your local wine shops or on wine lists and give it a try. And if you like to lead the pack, ask your favorite Sommelier or Wine Merchant for the Cleto Chiarli Blanc de Blancs now, so you can be one of the first to taste when it arrives in the US soon.