Azienda Vitivinicola 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).

Download Clerico Tech Sheet
Domaine NameAzienda Vitivinicola Clerico Massimo
Family/Owners NameClerico
How many years has the family owned the domaine?Based on some documents, since 1740, but definitely we go further back.
How many generations?Since 1740, as per some documents from the Royal Land Registry that are on file in the City Hall of Lessona.
How many hectares of vines are leased?2.5
How many hectares of vines are owned?0
Are your vineyards or wines Organic or Biodynamic Certified? If yes, in the EU? In the US? If no, are you in the process of becoming certified? No certification
Describe your vineyard management practices (e.g. low-intervention, organic, biodynamic, standard, etc.).Pest and disease control treatments are carried out in a traditional manner, trying to use as little copper as possible, because my vineyards are very old (dating back to 1740) and, just like all the vineyards in Lessona, they are on acidic soil, which gets damaged by excessive copper content.
Do you do field work and harvest manually? By machine? By horse?Grapes are harvested by hand.
Do you practice green harvest? Leaf thinning? How do you fertilize?No green harvesting on old vines, but only on young vines if there is an excessive amount of grapes. We do not do any defoliation. Fertilization is done with organic products (Magnital), to provide the soil with calcium and magnesium. Manure is used for its organic compounds.
Do you sell off any of your wine en vrac/allo sfuso?No
Do you typically sell or buy any grapes? Please specify NO
VINO #1
GENERAL INFORMATION
AppellationLessona Riserva DOC 2011
Cepage/Uvaggio97% Nebbiolo, 3% Vespolina
% Alcohol by volume13,5
# of bottles produced4000
Grams of Residual Sugar
VINEYARD AND GROWING INFORMATION
Vineyard/ name(s) and locationsGaja Vineyard, planted in 1960. Leria Vineyard, planted in 1935. Putin Vineyard, planted in 1980
Exposures and slope of vineyardsWest-Southwest exposure on terraces on the hills
Soil Types(s)Medium-textured soil mainly consisting of sand (37%), silt (44.2%) and clay (18.8%). ACIDITA’ PH 4
Average vine age (per vineyard)50 years old
Average Vine Density (vines/HA)2,500-3,000 plants per hectare
Approximate harvest date(s)Mid-October. Just like in the last few years, we had a rainy Spring, a warm Summer and a very sunny Fall, with remarkably different temperatures between day and night. This year was within the norm over the last 10 years. Grapes ripened slowly, as days were sunny and nights cold.
WINEMAKING/CELLAR INFORMATION
whole cluster, % destemmed, %Grapes were destalked and then crushed
Fermentation: vessel type and sizeFermentation with cultured yeasts in 25-hectoliter stainless steel vats. 15 days at controlled temperature
Duration of contact with lees30–40 days after the fermentation. 40 days with the cap submerged
Select or indigenous yeast?Cultured, local yeasts
Please describe wine making process for EACH wine such as: pump-overs, punch-downs, racking, movement/transfer of wine done by gravity or pumping?), battonnage, malolactic fermentation allowed, chaptalizationAfter the alcoholic fermentation, which usually lasts 15 days, there is a forty-day maceration on the skins, using the submerged cap system. Subsequently, the wine is extracted and the skins are pressed. After pressing, the wine is maintained at 20 degrees C and lactobacteria are added. During the malolactic fermentation, there is some batonnage. After the malolactic fermentation, the gross lees are removed, while keeping the fine lees, and more batonnage takes place. At this point, the temperature is turned down to facilitate the development of tartrate crystals. Afterwards, the wine is put in wood barrels.
Elevage: vessel type(s) and size(s)Wine is aged 12 months in barriques of third use. 30 months in 15-hectoliter barrels
Duration of elevage42 months in wood. 13 months in steel
Duration of bottle ageing before release to US marketMinimum 12 months
Do you practice fining and filtration? If yes, please describeFiltration with a 1-micron capsule
Do you add sulfur? If so when and how much? How much sulfur remains in the wine at release?Yes, 5 grams per 100 kilograms. Small quantities of sulphites are added throughout the entire process; 85 milliliters per liter
WINE #2
GENERAL INFORMATION
AppellationSpanna Coste della Sesia Nebbiolo DOC 2014
Cepage/Uvaggio100% Nebbiolo
% Alcohol by volume12.5
# of bottles produced4000
Grams of Residual Sugar
VINEYARD AND GROWING INFORMATION
Vineyard/ name(s) and locationsGorena vineyard, planted in 2007
Exposures and slope of vineyardsWestern exposure on terraces on the hills
Soil Types(s)Medium-textured soil mainly consisting of sand (37%), silt (44.2%) and clay (18.8%). PH 4
Average vine age (per vineyard)9 years old
Average Vine Density (vines/HA)2,500-3,000 plants per hectare
Approximate harvest date(s)At the end of October. Just like in the last few years, Spring and Summer were rainy. Fall was sunny, with remarkably different temperatures between day and night. The year was rainier than usual. Grapes ripened slowly, as days were sunny and nights cold.
WINEMAKING/CELLAR INFORMATION
whole cluster, % destemmed, %Grapes were destalked and then pressed
Fermentation: vessel type and sizeFermentation with cultured yeasts in 25-hectoliter stainless steel vats.
Duration of contact with lees10 days at controlled temperature 15 days following the fermentation 25 days
Select or indigenous yeast?Cultured, local yeasts
Please describe wine making process for EACH wine such as: pump-overs, punch-downs, racking, movement/transfer of wine done by gravity or pumping?), battonnage, malolactic fermentation allowed, chaptalization After the alcoholic fermentation, which usually lasts 15 days, there is a forty-day maceration on the skins, using the submerged cap system. Subsequently, the wine is extracted and the skins are pressed. After pressing, the wine is maintained at 20 degrees C and lactobacteria are added. During the malolactic fermentation, there is some batonnage. After the malolactic fermentation, the gross lees are removed, while keeping the fine lees, and more batonnage takes place. At this point, the temperature is turned down to facilitate the development of tartrate crystals. Afterwards, the wine is put in wood barrels.
Elevage: vessel type(s) and size(s)Wine is aged 12 months in barriques of third use
Duration of elevage12 months in wood. 4 months in steel
Duration of bottle ageing before release to US marketMinimum 6 months
Do you practice fining and filtration? If yes, please describeFiltration with a 1-micron capsule
Do you add sulfur? If so when and how much? How much sulfur remains in the wine at release?Yes, 5 grams per 100 kilograms. Small quantities of sulphites are added throughout the entire process; 80 milliliters per liter. This vintage is within the norm over the last 10 years
WINE #3
GENERAL INFORMATION
AppellationCa’ du Leria Coste della Sesia Ross DOC 2014
Cepage/Uvaggio50% Nebbiolo, 40% Croatina, 5% Vespolina, 5% rare grapes
% Alcohol by volume12.5
# of bottles produced2000
Grams of Residual Sugar
VINEYARD AND GROWING INFORMATION
Vineyard/ name(s) and locationsLeria vineyard, planted in 1960
Exposures and slope of vineyardsWestern exposure on terraces on the hills.
Soil Types(s)Medium-textured soil mainly consisting of sand (37%), silt (44.2%) and clay (18.8%). PH 4
Average vine age (per vineyard)50 years old
Average Vine Density (vines/HA)2,500-3.000 plants per hectare
Approximate harvest date(s)At the end of October. Just like in the last few years, we had a rainy Spring and a warm, rainy Summer. Fall was sunny, with remarkably different temperatures between day and night. The year was within the norm of the last 10 years. Grapes ripened slowly, as days were sunny and nights cold.
WINEMAKING/CELLAR INFORMATION
whole cluster, % destemmed, %Grapes were destalked and then pressed
Fermentation: vessel type and sizeFermentation with cultured yeasts in 25-hectoliter stainless steel vats.
Duration of contact with lees10 days following the fermentation
Select or indigenous yeast?Cultured, local yeasts
Please describe wine making process for EACH wine such as: pump-overs, punch-downs, racking, movement/transfer of wine done by gravity or pumping?), battonnage, malolactic fermentation allowed, chaptalization After the alcoholic fermentation, which usually lasts 15 days, there is a forty-day maceration on the skins, using the submerged cap system. Subsequently, the wine is extracted and the skins are pressed. After pressing, the wine is maintained at 20 degrees C and lactobacteria are added. During the malolactic fermentation, there is some batonnage. After the malolactic fermentation, the gross lees are removed, while keeping the fine lees, and more batonnage takes place. At this point, the temperature is turned down to facilitate the development of tartrate crystals. Afterwards, the wine is put in wood barrels.
Elevage: vessel type(s) and size(s)Wine is aged 12 months in barriques of third use
Duration of elevage12 months in wood. 4 months in steel
Duration of bottle ageing before release to US marketMinimum 6 months
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