Quietly over the past decade, Montepeloso’s Fabio Chiarelotto has emerged as one of the towering winemakers of the Tuscan coast. His windy site sits above the famed Tua Rita estate in Suvereto, producing red wines that are among the region’s most refined.
When he purchased Montepeloso in 1998, it was already well on its way to international stardom. Chiarelotto could have rested on that reputation, but he felt that as the vines had been planted and trained, the site would never reach its full potential. And so he spent years reshaping the vineyards.
Looking back, he made the right decision, as today Montepeloso has few rivals on the Tuscan coast for producing wines of riveting complexity and great elegance.
For eight long years, Chiarelotto painstakingly reshaped the estate’s vineyards. With each vintage, he experimented with blends and techniques that would harness the latent power provided by the terroir, but temper it so that the terroir could fully express itself.
The terroir itself is extraordinary: hillsides around the town of Suvereto. The zone’s petrified clay soils, and its proximity to the sea, give a startling intensity of flavor to wines. It’s little wonder that a half dozen estates have sprung up over the past 20 years though, by contrast, most are planted in the heavier clays of the valley floor.
His obsession is such that we find few others with which to compare him. But he perhaps most reminds us of the great Montalcino iconoclast Gianfranco Soldera. Like Soldera, Chiarelotto remains driven by his own philosophies, possessing an obsessive commitment to quality, with an apparent disinterest in what others think of him or his wines.
While progress has been steady, the 2006 vintage marked the beginning of this estate’s “mature phase.” The vineyards were finally rehabilitated, and Fabio had settled on a mix of varieties ideally suited to express the essence of Suvereto and Montepeloso. His experiments in winemaking and élévage had shown him the right balance for each wine. And, he had developed a profound understanding of his terroir, and the direction each wine should take.
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