Domenico Clericos small estate is situated in Monforte dAlba, right in the heart of Barolo. Interestingly, like many of the modernist persuasion, Clerico began in traditional mode, utilizing the hallmark vessels of the traditionalistsSlavonian oak casksas they were readily available to him. The debut vintage of Barolo Pajanà (1990) represented Clericos first expression of a 100-percent barrique-aged Barolo. At the time of Pajanàs release, he was aging Ciabot Mentin Ginestrathe house flagshipwholly in 700-liter tonneaux, a medium he had begun to use for a portion of Ginestras aging in the 1985 vintage.
While he did transition to 100% barrique aging for his Barolosin vintages subsequent to 1990, he was motivated to do so for pragmatic rather than stylistic reasons. In essence, one of the middle grounds between cask and barriquetonneaux proved to be too high-maintenance. While his initial barrique regimen for Barolos featured equal proportions of new and used French barrels, for a brief period of time, Clerico employed new barrique exclusively for all of his Barolos. He soon moderated these absolute tendencies, with new barrels constituting between 35 and 40 percent of his cooperage. At present, ArtePiemontes second Nebbiolo-Barbera blend is the only wine in Clericos portfolio that is aged exclusively in new barrique. But Clerico hasnt just been working out his involvement with barrique. In fact, his work with maceration periods has been far more dramatic than his experimentation with barrique. In 1993, Clericos maceration periods ranged from five to eight days. In 2006, that period averaged 18, with a new addition to the Barolo portfolio (a 2006 from purchased fruit) receiving 23 days of maceration. So where does that place Clerico? At both extremesand handling them with finesse and passion.
Thus, while Domenico Clerico is often positioned in Piemontes modernist school (along with Sandrone, Scavino, and Voerzio), his dynamic evolution and current practices no longer warrant such absolute classification. In fact, to regard him as modernist is to blatantly ignore the dynamic evolution that he has undergone over the years, manifested in a shifting stylistic spectrum and a constant probing for the ideal aesthetic. Rooted at the core of Clericos winemaking philosophy is his staunch conviction that the quality of the vines is the sole factor determining a wines 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 theres no better testament to Clericos meticulous approach to viticulture than the sign that directs vintners to his cellar doorDomenico Clerico, Viticoltore (i.e., Domenico Clerico, Vinegrower). Clericos 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.
The estates current portfolio features cru Barolos, including Ciabot Mentin Ginestra, Pajanà, and Percristina; a Barolo cuvée; Dolcetto and Barbera bottlings; and Piemontes second Nebbiolo-Barbera blend, Arte. In 2006, Clerico vinified a Barolo from purchased fruit; it has received his longest maceration period to date. While he will always be a Barolo Boy, Clerico has matured quite a bit since that revolutionary period in the 80s, when himself and the other members of Barolos backstreet vignerons brandished a new conception of Barolo.
Considered the king of Italian wines, Barolo is made from the Nebbiolo grape in the Piedmont region of Italy. Full bodied, high in tannic, acidity, and alcohol, their aromas suggest tar, violets, roses, strawberries, even truffles. Very similar to, if a little more full-bodied than, Barbaresco. Barolos need to be aged for at least three years in the winery (five years if it is a Reserva), but benefits from additional aging. More recent vintages are fruitier in flavor, often a bit oaky, and may be ready to drink as soon as two to five years after release.