Michele Chiarlo, Italian Winemaker Known for Barolo and Barbera, Dies at 88

Wine

Renowned Piedmont vintner Michele Chiarlo, founder of the winery that bears his name, died Nov. 18. He was 88.

Born into a winegrowing family, Chiarlo studied enology at the wine school in Alba, counting among his contemporaries future enology consultant Giacomo Tachis and winery founder Renato Ratti. He established his winery in 1956, bottling his first Barolo, made from purchased grapes, in 1958. He believed the future success of the region lay in selling the wines internationally.

Chiarlo was part of a generation looking to improve methods in both the vineyards and winery to try and produce Barolo wines worthy of the appellation’s reputation. He soon discovered the only way to guarantee quality was to fully control grape production. In 1983, he leased vineyards in the long-abandoned Cerequio area of La Morra. According to his son Stefano, locals were so outraged when he green harvested the first year to improve ripeness, they asked the area priest to go speak with him and reconsider his sinful ways.

Finding the Best Vineyards

Over the years Michele acquired some of the best parcels in Barolo, including plots in Cannubi and Cerequio, and Asti, where he was a big advocate of Barbera and Moscato. The company’s vineyard holdings today encompass more than 270 acres.

Based in the Asti town of Calamandra, Chiarlo purchased 50 acres of Barbera vineyards in 1995 in one of the best parts of the area. Eventually they became part of the Nizza DOCG when it was created in 2014. A tireless promoter of Barbera, he was a founding member of Hastae, an association of producers who carried the grape’s message worldwide.

“Michele Chiarlo, besides building one of the most respectful winery of Piemonte, certainly contributed to the success of the wines of the region,” said Pietro Ratti of Renato Ratti Winery. “His strong commitment with Barbera, which he upgraded to the ‘Nizza’ denomination, well shows his belief and vision.”

Chiarlo was also a tourism pioneer in the Piedmont region, creating a sculpture garden near his Barbera vineyards and building a hotel in La Morra. (Courtesy Michele Chiarlo)

In the heart of the Cerequio MGA, he opened a luxury boutique hotel in 2011 called Palás Cerequio, a mecca for Barolo lovers that promoted the food and wines of the region.

Chiarlo was also active in many of the consortiums and producer associations in Piedmont and Italy, including Grandi Marchi. He is survived by his wife, Giuseppina and sons Alberto and Stefano, both of whom manage the winery today.

“[He was] a man very attached to his own land and his own roots,” said Ratti.”His sons Alberto and Stefano must be happy to have shared a long life with him and now be ready to continue his great legacy.”


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