Today we will close Piemonte. It has been a long journey into this fabulous region, one of the most prestigious one in Italy. Keep in mind that Piemonte was where the Kings of Italy resided before the government moved to Rome after 1870. So their wines were known to the courts of Europe. I mentioned in the first blog that Nebbiolo and particularly Barolo was the Wine of the kings and the King of the wines.
Today we turn the page to the whites, less known and less appreciated but nevertheless great wines. One of them: Arneis is one of my favorite whites.
So lets start with that, lets talk about Arneis.
In the 1980s, Arneis made Italy’s most popular dry white wine, mainly on the strength of Ceretto’s iconic, beautifully labeled and bottled Blangé bottling. The name Arneis derives from Renexij, the ancient name of the locality Renesio di Canale: in time this morphed into Arnesio (used at the beginning of the twentieth century), and finally, Arneis. It’s not by chance that a high-quality cru for this variety is Bric Renesio, a specific site first described in 1478. Interestingly, in Piedmontese dialect, the word arneis is also used to describe rascally individuals, those who tend to get on everybody’s nerves.
By the 1960s, Arneis had been reduced to only a few rows of vines in the Langhe, and it was only thanks to two producers, Alfredo Currado of the Vietti estate in Castiglione Falletto and Bruno Giacosa of the eponymous estate in Neive, that it didn’t disappear altogether. How ironic that a Piedmontese white wine would be saved by two of the region’s most famous Barolo producers! In reality, Arneis was at the same time also being replanted and studied by Giovanni Negro in the Roero region. Interestingly though, Arneis has always had ties to Piedmont’s most famous wine: in fact, it used to be called Nebbiolo Bianco, as it grows tall and erect just like Nebbiolo. In centuries past it was also very common to add a little arneis to Barolo and even to barbera, both high-acid wines, to soften things up.
There is not just one Arneis wine, but many. Despite this wine’s reputation as a simple, everyday tipple, there is more to arneis: complex, site-specific arneis is there to be found, especially in the Roero. There, geological differences can translate into huge differences between wines. A very adaptable grape, Arneis seems at its best in the Roero’s white, friable, porous soils where layers of sand and chalk are intertwined with small amounts of marl, typically found near the town of Monteu Roero. On clay-rich soils, such as those near Castellinaldo, wines tend to have more body and extract, though lesser examples have less interesting aromas, coarser flavors, and are generally shorter lived.
Arneis can be one of Italy’s most delicious white wines, exhibiting a thrilling range of aromas and flavors of surprising if subtle complexity. The wines are delicately straw-green, with aromas of white flowers, chamomile, white peach, and apricot and flavors of citrus, ripe pear, apricot, and sweet almond. Softly scented and surprisingly creamy on the palate, a good arneis can be utterly irresistible; versions that lack this creaminess and are more herbal are not as thrilling. Usually produced in a fresh, crisp style, some estates produce gently oaked versions, though oak can be overpowering for the delicate aromas and flavors of arneis. Though rare, there are also sparkling and sweet arneis. These two wine styles are risky with Arneis, a cultivar notoriously low in acid.
Arneis is mostly produced in the light soil of Roero, it did not get any recognition until Bruno Giacosa and Vietti began to produce small quantities. A few years later Ceretto joined the cause and became even more instrumental in transforming Arneis into a highly reputable grape capable of producing truly distinctive wines.
Bruno Giacosa - Arneis of Roero
The knowledge, passion and wisdom that Bruno Giacosa brings to his work as producer of fine wines is the fruit of the dedication of three generations of wine makers.
The family interest in vine cultivation began during the constant search for the best vineyards from which to buy the grapes necessary for wine making. The next step, naturally, was to acquire some of the same vineyards for the family business – and the one after that, to specialise in the Nebbiolo grape and the grand wines made from it.
That Bruno Giacosa is a perfectionist is obvious from the meticulousness with which he applies his craft. This is the story of his wines.
Roero Arneis D.O.C.G. Dark, straw-yellow colour. Intense, fine and elegantly fruity bouquet reminiscent of peach, apricot, citrus, fruit and acacia flowers. Fresh and fragrant flavour with soft plentifulness.
Vietti Roero Arneis
Designation: Roero Arneis DOCG
Grapes: 100% Arneis
Winemaking: The grapes are selected from vineyards located in the middle of the Roero area, in Santo Stefano Roero. The vineyards are approximately 25 years old and are planted with 4.500-5.000 vines per hectare. Harvest starts around mid-September and the grapes are first pressed and then clarified. Alcoholic fermentation occurs in stainless steel autoclave at lower temperature (10-12°C, 50-53° F) to preserve some natural CO2 from the fermentation.
Aging: Wine does not undergo malolactic fermentation to preserve acidity and freshness. The wine is held in stainless steel tanks on fine lees until just before bottling.
Description: Pale straw yellow color with fresh floral, citrus and melon aromas with hints of almond. An unoaked, dry, medium bodied white wine with crisp acidity, the Arneis is well-balanced, elegant wine with good complexity and a lingering finish.
Food Pairings: As an aperitif with light hors d’oeuvres, crudités, seafood, salads, light soups, simply prepared veal, pork, chicken and creamy cheese