Riding behind Francesco on the tractor. The netting protects against hail.

Francesco Clerico Barolo Colonello 2010

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For vineyard workers a merenda (the casse-croute of France) must be something to look forward to every day: it’s the mid-morning snack, and I imagine that it’s well-earned. In early summer of 1989 Francesco Clerico had come home to Bussia in Monforte to help his father in the vines (he was, at that time, a policeman in Torino. A great many people of his generation were obliged to go to Torino or Milano to find work; the market for Barolo was just beginning to develop into the success it is today). They stopped working to have their merenda, and Francesco dropped a piece of cheese on the ground by the vines. “I went to pick it up to eat, and I thought, damn! I can’t eat that now – we had just put down herbicide. And then I realized that if I couldn’t eat a piece of food just because it had fallen on the ground – on my family’s land - that we must be doing it all wrong, using poisons on our land. Somehow it gave us the perspective we’d been lacking and from that moment on we haven’t used any products in the vines except for copper and sulfur.”

 

To me this is both a charming and a very sensible story, but it doesn’t convey the challenges involved, starting with the fact that herbicide saves many hours of labor, and that it took extra work to persuade his father to forgo the other products like fungicides, insecticides, and chemical fertilizers that they (and all of their neighbors) had been using. 

“When you use chemicals the vines are actually weakened and become dependent on them – they have no natural resistance – it’s like us and antibiotics. It wasn’t easy the first couple of years and we lost some of our crop, but gradually the vines have become healthier and stronger, and even when our neighbors who use products have problems ours stay healthy, and we get good fruit. I remember that before it was like working in a poisoned desert, and now the soil is alive, we have birds and small animals. Working in the vines is my greatest pleasure.”

With that good fruit, Clerico makes old school wines. For years he resisted pressure from the market and from his peers, including his famous cousin Domenico, to change to more modern style wine; he says he’s not surprised that many (including his cousin) are now moving back toward traditional methods, similar to what Francesco does: good fruit, long submerged-cap fermentations using indigenous yeasts, aging in 20HL botte, no fining or filtration. We started selling Clerico with the Barolo 2006, and the wines have been very consistent – among the few 2007s and 2009s, for example, that remained true to their terroir.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clerico, Francesco 2010 Barolo Bussia Vigna Colonello

I think the 2010 Barolo is a special wine, showing transparent Bussia dark fruit, elegant and austere stoniness, and the harmonious character of the vintage's best wines. The equilibrium and finesse that are part of those best wines is very evident; although the 2010 will age (and improve) for a very long time, it’s quite delicious now. Regarding Bussia, in Barolo MGA, the great cartographer Alessandro Masnaghetti writes: “The first cru, along with Rocche di Castiglione, to be officially declared on a Barolo label in the “modern era”, Bussia is not only the best vineyard site in all of Monforte d’Alba, but one of the super-stars of the entire appellation, capable of stimulating the dreams and desires of wine lovers all over the world.” Don't be put off by the low price! We set prices based on what we pay – if we get a good buy, then you do too. The Clerico wines are imported for Chambers Street; with more beaks dipping, the Barolo would normally be 50-60% more expensive in this market, as is the case for many of Clerico’s peers. The favorable exchange rate with the Euro has also helped make this an incredible buy for the quality of the wine. Jamie Wolff

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Clerico, Francesco 2010 Barbera d'Alba

Organically grown Barbera in one the most hallowed vineyards in Italy? Indeed, intriguing. This dark ruby Barbera offers a complex nose of black cherries, black olives, dried tobacco leaves, white pepper, sage, dark chocolate, ginger, nutmeg, and mesquite bbq. On the palate, a rounded tannic structure is seamlessly integrated with fruit and minerality; ending with a gripping finish. This tremendous value would be a perfect fall pairing with salumi, roasted game, or an osso buco stew. John Rankin

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Clerico, Francesco 2013 Nebbiolo d'Alba

If you are a wine producer who essentially sells everything you make every year, it would seem that you really don’t need to hype your current (or upcoming) wine, but can indulge in an honest assessment of the vintage in comfortable security. So it is with many of the Barolo / Barbaresco producers we visit every year: the wine is going to sell (and they will have made the best possible wine every year), and while they are proud of their work, they offer a balanced view of things. Thus I have to take note: I have never heard such widespread enthusiasm from this group as there seems to be about 2013, when what started off as a difficult growing season ended up with fantastic conditions. It’s going to be interesting. Tasted in May, the Nebbiolo 2013 showed lots of material and good overall balance, but was a bit mute, certainly not dramatic. Tasted yesterday (not long after the wine arrived here), the nose was intensely floral, with lots of earthiness; after a few minutes it began to open up, with the floral aspect diminishing in favor of more savory and fruity notes, and the wine becoming more appealing overall. We tasted in the shop in the late afternoon, and I took the bottle home to try again with our late dinner (a version of amatriciana). With those 5+ hours of air the wine transformed and was vastly improved, and it drank like a young, fairly intensely structured Barolo. Interesting stuff, not at all casual or for the faint hearted, but with a lot of potential. It was damn good with the pasta! And don’t forget to decant your Nebbiolo. Jamie Wolff

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