Arneis: Piemonte’s Best Kept Secret
Arneis is a white variety hailing from the Roero hills -a place more known for the solid stamina of deep and rich Nebbiolo reds. Walking the vineyards of Piedmont might be heaven on earth for its immediate access to all of the incomparable Barolo and Barbaresco the heart desires but after some time the palate seeks respite from the unrelenting tannins, earthen richness and head spinning aromas of Nebbiolo. Suddenly the adage of too much of a good thing sets in and you wonder how one of the world’s finest reds could conquer you.
Your eye catches a bright white being poured across the room and you order a glass filled with orchard aromas and your palate awash with the dry and refreshing complexity of a pear. It is entirely engaging and tapers graciously with a fresh almond scent that keeps you at the finish. Its orchard fruits relieve the weary while it whets your lips and restores you for another trek through the Piemontese terrain. Arneis is the answer to many of those questions that have been taking shape in your mind but haven’t yet been put to words. It is all its own, has an uplifting character and offers so much more than its peers. In a word Arneis is: delightful.
RESTORED FROM NEAR EXTINCTION
If not for Alfredo Currado (the “father of Arneis” and Luciana Vietti’s husband) the Roero hills might not bear the fine dry whites of Arneis. In the late 1960s it was he who recognized this local variety’s charms and nursed the last Arneis vines into propagation and production -yielding engaging varietal wines that now prove another charm to Piedmont and yet another feather in his cap. Alfredo’s son Luca has since taken up this mantle in fine form. (Seeing as Alfredo is the “father of Arneis” does this make Luca its brother?)
Estate grown from the Santo Stefano parcel in Roero just north of Barolo, Vietti’s Arneis is exceptional. Fermented in stainless steel without malolactic fermentation, this medium bodied wine still comes with ample body to balance the bright and crisp orchard fruit that refresh the whole palate and then taper gently into a snappy, floral finish. But there’s more…
AN OPPORTUNITY AT A BRACE OF GREAT ARNEIS
Enjoying a recent visit with Paitin winemaker Giovanni Pasquero-Elia, we marveled at the way Arneis comes together in the bottle over time and how it offers varied charms at every stage of its evolution. Giovanni let us in on how he employs certain methods in the winery to preserve Arneis’ best qualities and he can be watched among Paitin tasting notes online -or better yet: tasted for yourself.
“With a nose showing bakery-like aromas of sweet almond and springtime honeysuckle, the Paitin Vigna Elsia is a full-bodied version of Arneis, probably because of extended sur lie again,” noted a colleague “yet it’s a fine-boned wine. The palate shows white – yellow fruits in an almost tropical fashion…all the beautiful qualities you look for in a perfect white wine.”
That’s not to say one must wait however; on the contrary: Paitin’s Vigna Elsia Arneis shows Arneis in the blush of youth; it is mineral, citric, sappy and textural with mandarins, lemon rinds and honeydew that are as flavorsome as they are fragrant and snappy with a polished mouthfeel, an herby nuance, and finish that is crisp yet rounds out with a fresh almond scent. Invigorating and inviting, Arneis is a favorite with seafood, mild pork dishes, and my personal favorite: the elemental pleasure of paring this with a simply dressed roasted chicken.