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Piedmont wine icon Michele Chiarlo passes away

Celebrated winemaker Michele Chiarlo has passed away peacefully at the age of 88 at his home in Calamandrana.

Chiarlo was famous for vinifying the essence of Piedmont and bringing Barolo, Moscato and Barbera d’Asti to the world.

He was born on May 25, 1935, and he grew up in Calamandrana. His parents were grape growers, and he helped out on their land in the Piedmont hills.

Chiarlo eventually convinced his father, Pietro, to enrol him in the oenological school in Alba. His father agreed, on the condition that he always work hard to better himself.

It proved to be a shrewd decision, as Chiarlo went on to become one of the most renowned winemakers in the world.

He studied alongside fellow luminaries such as Pietro Ratti, Ezio Rivella, Franco Ziliani, Giuliano Noè and Giacomo Tachis in Alba.

In 1956 Chiarlo took his first steps as an entrepreneur, opening a bottling business with his sister.

He simultaneously managed the family’s farmhouse and vineyards, and he bottled and sold his first Barolo cru in 1958.

Throughout the 1960s, Chiarlo worked tirelessly to promote the wines of Piedmont in export markets, with a particular focus on northern Europe and the Americas.

In 1972, he opened a new winery in Calamandrana. Over the subsequent decades, he built up the family estate via several acquisitions, selecting the best parcels of land in Langhe, Monferrato and Gavi.

His meticulous and patient approach allowed him to secure some of the most prestigious land in Piedmont.

Chiarlo continued to innovate, and in 1974 he unveiled a Barbera made using malolactic fermentation, helping to create wines with greater stability, lower acidity and more accessibility in their youth.

He served as the president of the local consortium for Barbera d’Asti during the 1980s. In 1987, he was among the founders of the Consorzio Grandi Vini, the first nationwide trade group dedicated to promoting Italian wine around the world.

At the same time, his expansion drive continued, and he secured plots of land producing world-class Barolo crus, including vineyards such as Cerequio and Cannubi.

His two sons joined the family business in the 1990s, with Stefano handling viticulture and vinification, and Alberto working in sales and marketing.

Chiarlo went on to play a key role in establishing the Nizza DOCG in Piedmont in 2014, one of many achievements of his career.

The family-run company that bears his name now owns 110ha in the region, including areas of DOCG Barolo, DOCG Barbaresco, DOCG Nizza and DOCG Gavi.

Only native grapes are grown – Nebbiolo, Barbera, Cortese and Muscat – and each vineyard parcel at Michele Chiarlo is vinified separately.

The top two vineyards, Cerequio and La Court, are now recognised as UNESCO world heritage sites.

Chiarlo continued running the business alongside his two sons until he passed away peacefully at his home. He is survived by his wife, Giuseppina, and his sons, Alberto and Stefano.

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