The wine landscape of Piedmont is just as vast as that of its mother country, and just as exciting. Which is why I wanted to talk to you about a very ancient grape variety called Arneis, a grape saved from extinction by locals who wanted to placate the international demand for dry white wines, and known in Ancient times as the “White Barolo,” Arneis is an exciting varietal that has a lot to offer all you foodies out there.
For centuries, Arneis was actually used to soften the harsh tannins of Nebbiolo in Barolo (hence the white Barolo moniker) before 20th Century demands of straight Nebbiolo saw to its decline. Prodcution diminished to the point where in the 1970s, only 2 producers were doing anything with the grape. However, in the following decade, a resurgent interest in the grape has seen the number of acres in the Roero region of Piedmont increase to over 1500 acres.
One example in particular, the Valdinera Arneis 2006 (resulting from grapes harvested right in the heart of the city of Alba) is a beautiful example of this undiscovered grape. Completely unoaked, the stainless steel fermentation is the perfect canvas upon which its aromas and flavors come to life, with scores of fresh peaches, apricots and hints of honey and white flowers. There is superb presence of mineral and balanced acidity throughout this delicious white wine, finishing long yet dry. An ideal aperitif wine, this 100% Arneis would also fair well with chicken, fish and vegetarian dishes.
I love this wine, though drinking it is bittersweet. This post for WBW is my homage to the late Italian wine importer John Given, who passed away last year. I feel indebted to John in a lot of ways, since it was me, in at least a small part that helped bring John’s wines to the Commonwealth of Kentucky. John’s love of classically-styled Italian wines that drew me to his portfolio, and it was his dedication to the traditional producers of my favorite wine region that has made me a fan for life. His wife, Anne-Catherine, continues to manage and expand the company they founded together, out of their love of Italian wine, of Life, and of each other.
Italian wines, and Italy in general, seems to inspire that level of devotion in anyone who accepts the invitation and I invite you to do the same.
Always remember: La vita viva ed ama bene.