Massimo Clerico

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When we determined to make an intensive exploration of the wines of the Alto Piemonte (March 2012), we first descended on the tiny appellation of Lessona in the province of Biella. We had had limited but satisfying exposure to the wines of Lessona way back in the late 1970s as produced by the Sella family, major landholders (and bankers) in the area. There are a mere 23 hectares in the appellation and they are all situated within the confines of the village of the same name. It was our great good fortune then to encounter Massimo and Concetta Clerico on our first foray into the village of Lessona in search of this elusive wine.

The Clerico family has worked the land in Lessona since the 1700s. In fact, the Clerico estate, under the direction of Sandrino Clerico (Massimo’s father), was one of the three original vineyards awarded the right to the Lessona appellation when it was first created in 1976. The Clerico family owns two hectares within the designated Lessona zone which, by the way, makes the Clerico azienda the third largest landholder in the appellation!

Massimo Clerico produces his wines exclusively from grapes grown in his own vineyards, most of which surround the family home and cantina on a hill overlooking the town of Lessona. The vineyards are situated at approximately 350 meters above sea level and the soil is predominantly an ancient marine sand of high acid that provides excellent drainage. The vineyards are divided into four separate parcels. The “Vigna Leria” is a parcel that sits on a steep slope immediately in front of the family home and the cellars. It is planted to a mix of Nebbiolo, Croatina and Vespolina. The “Vigna Gaja” has the oldest plantings (dating from 1970) and is devoted exclusively to Nebbiolo, all of which is destined to form the soul of the Lessona bottling. The “Vigneto del Putin” was planted to Nebbiolo in 1984. The best exposed grapes from this plot are used for the Lessona with the remainder becoming the Spanna Costa della Sesia. Finally, the newest vineyard with the youngest vines (planted in 2008) is the “Vigneto del Gorena”, again planted to Nebbiolo that, when the vines reach a proper age, will help to produce additional Spanna at the estate.

Harvest at the Clerico estate is manual and usually occurs during the second half of October. The cellars where the grapes are fermented and the wines produced date from 1740 and were rebuilt in 2004. The grapes are destemmed; there is a lengthy fermentation; then, the wines are aged for in large and medium-sized barrels. The Lessona bottling must by law be aged for at least one year in wood and then another year in bottle before release but Massimo Clerico ages his Lessona frequently for three or more years before release. The Costa della Sesia and the Spanna are both aged for at least one year in barrel before bottling. Current production levels at the Clerico estate are in the neighborhood of 5000 bottles per year.

Clerico-Ca-du-Leria

Costa della Sesia Rosso Ca’ du Leria: This wine is produced from the “Vigna Leria”, a vineyard site that sits immediately adjacent to the family home. It is a blend of Nebbiolo (50%), Croatina (30%) and Vespolina (20%). Sitting on an ancient seabed, the soils are very poor and porous which permit the vines to extend deeply into the soil. The result is a wine of intense minerality with a fresh, lively presence on the palate. The color is vivid but not dense, having a grey-garnet hue. Aged for one year in oak barrels (not new), annual production is approximately 1500 bottles.

Clerico-Spanna Spanna Costa della Sesia Nebbiolo: The appellation takes its name from the river Sesia which courses its way past Lessona carrying the cooling waters of the mountains and great lakes to the north. Here, the Nebbiolo, known by its local name “Spanna”, finds its home on the hillsides in the poor soils of this region where it benefits from a long growing season that permits the grape to achieve maximum maturity while retaining its formidable acidity. The grapes for this cuvée (100% Nebbiolo) come primarily from the “Vigneto del Putin” vineyard site from vines planted in 1984. The wine is aged in barrel for at least one year before bottling. Annual production is approximately 1500 bottles.
Lessona Lessona: This, the most grand wine of the estate, is a selection of Nebbiolo from Clerico’s finest vineyard sites, including the oldest vines of the estate (planted in 1970) in the “Vigna Gaja”. Although Lessona can be produced with a minimum of 85% Nebbiolo, Clerico’s Lessona is produced exclusively from Nebbiolo. Again, the rules of the DOC require a minimum of two years of aging before release, one of which must be in barrel; but, Clerico’s wines are aged at least 30 months (and often longer depending on the structure of the vintage **) in barrels of French oak origin before being bottled. The elegance and refinement of Clerico’s Lessona is manifest, providing another unique rendition of the complexity of the Nebbiolo grape. Annual production of Lessona from Massimo Clerico is on the order of 3000 b
clerico-lessona-riserva Lessona Riserva: To qualify as Lessona Riserva, the wine must be aged a total of 46 months before commercial release with a minimum of 30 months of the aging process occurring in barrel. This, the most grand wine of the estate, is a selection of Nebbiolo from Clerico’s finest vineyard sites, including the oldest vines of the estate (planted in 1970) in the “Vigna Gaja”. Although Lessona can be produced with a minimum of 85% Nebbiolo, Clerico’s Lessona is produced exclusively from Nebbiolo. Again, the rules of the DOC require a minimum of two years of aging before release, one of which must be in barrel; but, Clerico’s wines are aged at least 30 months (and often longer depending on the structure of the vintage **) in barrels of French oak origin before being bottled. The elegance and refinement of Clerico’s Lessona is manifest, providing another unique rendition of the complexity of the Nebbiolo grape. Annual production of Lessona from Massimo Clerico is on the order of 3000 b

Note*: Notes on the initial vintages imported by RWM from Massimo Clerico: The 2005 Lessona was aged for 36 months in barrel (2500 bottles produced); the 2006 Lessona was aged for 40 months in barrel (2000 bottles produced).

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Massimo Clerico – Antonio Galloni (Vinous)

2015 Massimo Clerico Coste della Sesia Ca’ Du Leria The 2015 Coste della Sesia Ca’ Du Leria is a dark, sumptuous wine laced with dark cherry, plum, new leather, licorice and spice. The richness and ripeness of the year are evident, and yet the Ca’ du Leria remains translucent and faithful to its origins. Readers […]

Alto Piemonte Reviews – Vinous

Vinous recently posted an article and set of tasting notes featuring the Alto Piemonte. From our growers, Antonio Galloni reviewed Noah, Monsecco, Massimo Clerico and Luigi Ferrando.

Spanna Costa Della Sesia (Clerico) 2013

Drinking this wine tonight. This is the sort of Nebbiolo that I grew up on. Fine, sexy, somewhat pale in color, grainy tannins with bitter cherry flavor, hints of earth on nose and palate, subtle spice and tree bark to boot. Very fine drinking right now with a myriad of dishes … roast chicken, flank steak in its juices are two that come to mind. We had fat portobellos tonight to indulge my vegetarianism which worked perfectly.

NIR

Ca’ du Leria 2013 Clerico

Married this wine tonight to a grilled magret duck breast. The wine is brilliant, showing a vibrant ruby color, evocative nose of fresh crushed wild berries and a spicy, fresh finish. Surprisingly complex for its price, it bristles with a lovely acidity. I would say that we should give the Ca’ du Leria 2013 a […]

Clerico Spanna 2012

Drinking this wine tonight. At a beautiful spot right now. Structured, perfectly balanced , savory with spice, lithe and long on the palate. A near-perfect example of Alto Piedmontese Nebbiolo. Confirms for me, once again, that Clerico is right behind (perhaps equal to) Rovellotti as the best of our producers from that region. Highly recommended! […]

Neal’s Visit to the Alto Piemonte (Oct 2013) continued

Neal’s visits in Alto Piemonte continued with a trip to Castello Conti: “Tuesday morning Oct 22 we visited with Elena and Paola Conti. Four wines were the subjects for the day.  The wines had just been bottled 10 days prior. The Nebbiolo Colline Novaresi 2012 was the most affected by the bottling, showing the dryness […]

EXPANDING OUR ITALIAN PORTFOLIO: ALTO PIEMONTE AND CALABRIA:A QUARTET OF GROWERS

For years we have longed to expand our footprint in Italy,  most specifically in Piedmont but also with an eye to southern Italy which heretofore was completely absent from our coverage.  With much good fortune, beginning with a casual encounter last December in Rome and continuing through an intense four day exploration we conducted in […]

Our Foray into Lessona

Yesterday, March 19, we arrived in Milan and headed directly to the northeastern sector of Piemonte to prospect for growers in the appellations of Lessona, Ghemme and Gattinara. In the small town of Lessona, which is the smallest in size of the subject appellations, we met with Massimo Clerico. He is the third “largest” producer […]

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