Domenico Clerico was one of the most influencial and passionate 'modernists' in Piedmont. He died, aged 67, about a year ago. When I met him at his winery many years ago, one incident demonstrated his dedication to the art of making wine. I was visiting with a French couple, and at the end of the tour and explanation they wanted to buy some of his wine. He got furious: "I am here to explain my philosophy and show you my wines, if you want to buy, go to an Enoteca."
His wines are not for the faint hearted: there is oak, acidity and firm tannins. I was interested to see how my 2000 Clerico Ciabot Barolo has mellowed. I decanted the wine, and the early aromas were not encouraging: volatile acidity was strong. The result is an unpleasant flavour of vinegar. If it is strong, the wine becomes undrinkable, if it is weak, it can add complexity to the wine. Volatile acidity is present in quite a few Italian wines, and is often linked to less than clean wineries. I thought Clerico was pretty clean, though.
In any event, after half an hour, the effect became quite small, and the wine started to show its powerful structure. Intense dark cherry fruit was somewhat dominated by high acidity and coarse tannins. They were certainly dialed up high. Despite all this, there was an underlying elegance, which made the wine quite attractive. This wine was not a shrinking violet and made for a very long life.
I felt the balance was not quite there in this wine, and I was somewhat disturbed by the volatile acidity experience.