Michele Chiarlo Le Orme 16 Months Barbera D’Asti 2015
Happy February friends! I’ve spent most of January sick and not drinking and mostly curled up on the couch hiding from the winter weather (it really helps that I work from home), but now I’m back and have I got a wine for you.
I first encountered this beaut last winter, when the LCBO released the 2014 and I grabbed a few bottles, fell in love, posted a pic on Instagram, and just quietly hoped it wouldn’t sell out before I could get more. But, of course, it was gone all too soon and I was bereft.
But on January 20, the LCBO released the 2015 and my heart rose in my chest. See, this bottle is not only delicious but it is the literal definition of QPR (quality-to-price ratio). It drinks like a much more expensive bottle, goes down a treat, pairs beautifully with food, and just strikes joy in your heart. And you will feel zero guilt opening it on a Monday.
I think I’ve already told you how much I love Barbera. But for those new to these pages, Barbera is Northern Italy’s “other” grape — it’s from Piedmont, just like Barolo and Barbaresco, but it’s more playful, less tannic, and ready to drink young. It’s high acid, rich and fruity, but approachable. Some people call it “the wine of the people” but I think of it as Northern Italy’s broodier, sexier version of Gamay. It’s got all that light, bright fruit but with a dusty savoury twist that makes you feel like you’re tucked in a dark corner of a bar, with a single candle between you and your date, and you’re flirting so close your lips are almost touching.
See, Barbera is a little bit goth, but with a cherry twist. Since it's pretty dark in colour, it’s easy to mistake it for a heavier wine but one sip and all that acidity and fruit just buoys you up and onto your next sip and your next bite and it’s just delightful.
This bottle from Michele Chiarlo embodies all that deliciousness at an incredible price. What’s even more impressive is that even at that low-price, they’re still able to hand-pick the grapes and age the wine for 16 months before release (I think partially in old oak, but the website doesn’t mention it so I can’t confirm — either way, aging is an expensive process). What I do know for sure is that it’s fermented entirely in stainless steel, where it also undergoes malolactic fermentation, meaning the flavours are kept fresh and pure.
You could serve it with a bit of a chill, but that’s not entirely necessary. Start the bottle with your favourite pasta and finish it in front of a fire curled up with your favourite human, pet, or book.
The LCBO currently has about 1,500 bottles, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding one. (Please note, however, that there were over 3,000 a couple weeks ago, so beware the speed at which it sells — and don’t be afraid to ask for a store transfer, it’s free and worth it.)
Nose: Violets, dark cherries, herbs, and some baking spices
Palate: Bright acidity meets smooth texture. It’ll get your salivary glands going, but is still rich and mouth-filling. It’s a crunchy red fruit, cherry party with a hint of fennel and thyme, a dash of cinnamon, and maybe even a hint of cocoa. But don’t think about it too hard: this wine is all about pleasure.