Italy in a glass: drinking Lambrusco at Cleto Chiarli
I’ll just go ahead and say this right away: Chieto Chiarli is, without even the hint of a doubt, the most beautiful winery in Emilia Romagna. I’m not sure if it’s because of how typically Italian this family-owned estate looks or because of how kind and passionate the owners are, but I completely fell in love with this place.
Welcome to a wanderlust-inducing photo odyssey of this dreamy property. Please note that I am hereby excluding myself from any liability pertaining to the spontaneous purchase of flights and travel plans :-)
A history of Emilia Romagna wines
Cleto Chiarli moved to the Modena countryside in 1850 to fully dedicate himself to winemaking, more specifically Lambrusco wines—his true passion. This new endeavour ended up being a small revolution in the area as the delicate sparkling red wine was not yet broadly commercialised; Chiarli improved bottling methods, using a unique process where the wine is bottled as is and only carbonates (i.e., turns into sparkling wine) once through re-fermentation, as carbon dioxide is naturally released from the alcohol sugar’s fermentation. He even went on to win an esteemed award at the 1900 Paris’ Exposition Universelle, a first for Lambrusco wines. Nowadays, Cleto Chiarli winery produces over 15 types of wines, both regular and sparkling, whites, reds, and rosés, each more delectable than the last.
But Cleto Chiarli was adamant about one thing: affordability. His goal was never to become a wine tycoon; he was adamant about keeping his products at a low price point, as he simply wanted the good people of Emilia Romagna to have the opportunity to enjoy quality Lambrusco wine regardless of their social standing.
And although Chiarli wines are still very decently priced (most bottles are under the €20 mark), it is thought that Cleto Chiarli would still be besides himself for having to pay so much money *LOL* for a humble sparkling wine.
Located in the southern outskirts of Modena, Cleto Chiarli specialises in Lambrusco wines, a sparkling and pleasant red wine very dear to the heart of locals. According to the Chiarli family, their Lambrusco “may well be the oldest in Europe”; indeed, the red nectar was mentioned in some of Virgil’s writings and poems… in the Augustan Period, roughly the year 50 BC. The grapes are now a denominazione di origine controllata, a severe and tightly-controlled quality assurance label for Italian food products.
Part of what makes this wine so special is that, contrary to most of its counterparts, it is not aged; grapes are harvested in late summer and bottled almost immediately, which gives the Lambrusco a unique and refreshing zing. If you’re like me and you’re not too keen on red wines, this is a way to open up your palate to softer, fruitier flavours.
I got as many bottles as Canadian customs let me bring home and I savoured them deliberately slowly, with some of my closest friends, plenty of Italian salami, and bits of aged Parmesan, aka the only way Lambrusco should be enjoyed as far as I’m concerned.
How to visit Cleto Chiarli
- The winery is located in the beautiful countryside in the outskirts of Modena.
- DON’T DRINK AND DRIVE. If you can’t be bothered to stick to the alcohol limit (who would blame you, with such amazing wines?), there’s a hop-on-hop-off bus route that stops at several sites of interest in and around Modena, including the Cleto Chiarli Winery and many others. It costs €60 per person for two days and includes transportation in air-conditioned coaches as well as guided visits and tastings at every stop. I’ve done it, and I think it’s worth the price.
- If you do travel to the winery independently, know that winery tours and tastings are available by reservation only. If you go with the hop-on-hop-off bus, you are entitled to a free visit and tasting anytime between Monday and Sunday, from 10:15AM to 5:15PM, between May 1st and October 31st.
- There is a shop on-site where you can buy as many bottles as you wish. They accept international credit cards.