Arneis: The Summer White In Piemonte

Anna Savino explores a varietal native to Piemonte

 


We all know that Piemonte is known for its red wines, but who can drink those on these blistering hot days? I sure can't!

I have been pretty obsessed lately with trying to explore Piemonte's comeback kid and native varietal Roero Arneis. It is a delicate and bright wine, is a little more aromatic than the other local Gavi white wine made from the Cortese grapes, and often smells of white flowers and grapefruit. Aside from their being really hard to pronounce with those hard-to-roll Italian Rs and Arneis sounding very Piemontesish, I have really been enjoying them, especially with pasta dishes!

Last weekend, Claudio and I went to visit the winery Luigi Penna & Figli near the town of Alba. After a huge thunderstorm the night before, we were blessed with a bright blue sky and cotton ball clouds, perfect for testing out our new wide-angle lens. I chose this winery because it was basically near Alba, in a frazione called San Rocco Seno D'Elvio (another mouthful), but the road just kept going up and up until we arrived at our destination. We were like small morsels at the bottom of a giant bowl.
We were greeted by third generation winemaker Giuliano who kind of reminded me of George from "Seinfeld." He was extremely generous in showing us his small winery and was open to sharing loads of information with us, starting from the basics to the very detailed specifics. The most interesting part was learning about their Piemontese family history and learning how each bottle is named after some connection with either the territory or family, ex: N'Giolina (Angelina), Pinin (nickname Giuseppe).

Penna lies in an interesting location in a small area right between the Barolo DOCG zone and Barbaresco DOCG zone. This means that although the land is still great for Nebbiolo, they cannot technically make denominated Barolo or Barbaresco from it. They are lucky to be on the bordering Moscato area, so they are able to make Moscato D'Asti. We were lucky to try the rare Dolcetto D'Alba Superiore Galante from his "Cru" series. Since normally Dolcetto is a table wine, it is often vinified in stainless steel. This one is aged in oak, giving it an exciting richness and complexity.

Next, it was time for the Arneis! The first Arneis Lurè is from his regular line, made in stainless steel tanks. It was fresh and crisp with delicate aromas showing typicity for this varietal. I loved it! Then, we compared it to his somewhat "experimental" Arneis Moiolo which he aged for a brief time in acacia barrels. The acacia wood gives it a more subtle flavor than new oak, giving it a full-bodied and soft feel on the palate. The aromas were more like that of a California Chardonnay actually, slightly smoky with tropical fruits. An interesting suggestion given by Giuliano was to drink it as you would a red, not straight out of the fridge. It was definitely a surprise, but a fun way to compare two new styles of Arneis.

With our stomachs all growling at 2:00 p.m., we left dear Giuliano and had a picnic with the two versions of Arneis near Barbaresco! It was truly an informative visit and a magical paradise near the hub of Alba. I look forward to trying more of their wines in the future. Now, go out, get some Arneis and try!

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Comments

  • "Aside from their being really hard to pronounce with those hard-to-roll Italian Rs and Arneis sounding very Piemontesish..." What is the proper pronunciation?

    Aug 22, 2012 at 2:44 PM


  • Snooth User: Anna Savino
    Hand of Snooth
    640513 46,138

    from what i can pronounce it would be AR-NAYZ :)

    Aug 22, 2012 at 2:47 PM


  • The locals say that this is the white for late summer, early autumn. They also call it the white barolo. The one we know is the Roero Arneis made by Bruno Giacosa. It has an appley freshness but then lots of tiny bubbles that give it effervescent freshness, finishes dry and complex and is perfect before and with dinner. The wine also stands up well to spicy food. Unfortunately it has become rather expensive (about £20) but is the kind of wine that makes life special from time to time

    Aug 23, 2012 at 4:25 AM


  • Snooth User: Anna Savino
    Hand of Snooth
    640513 46,138

    I am glad you enjoy arneis too and it is too bad that ALL the wines are becoming so expensive.. especially whites. At first I was not so sure about that effervescence either but now I kind of like it, as you say gives it a special freshness. Thanks for commenting! p.s. I wouldn't compare it to a white barolo personally!

    Aug 23, 2012 at 5:39 AM


  • Snooth User: luca chevalier
    Hand of Snooth
    533661 2,535

    Good Idea looking at someting different from Barolo and Barberesco, Piemonte is a rich Land, my doubt is only about Langhe Arneis.
    In fact it would be better, to rappresent a type of grape that is original from a territory (Roero) talking about that territory...Roero...
    Of course th production of Arneis is mostly Known from Lange ( Because of Ceretto Blange), but Arneis is Born in Roero!
    It would be good to spend some times to visit Matteo Correggia, Generaj, Angelo Negro, Cornarea or other Like Malvira or Monchiero Cabone to rapresent the Terroir....
    Anyway good job Anna :-) Ciao

    Aug 23, 2012 at 5:59 AM


  • Snooth User: Anna Savino
    Hand of Snooth
    640513 46,138

    You are absolutely right on Luca! Unfortunately without a car I can only venture out every so often and taste arneis as I go...

    I did want to talk about Roero more but then that was becoming a whole different article! Anyway I have tried Negro and Monchiero Arneis and loved them!

    Thanks for your suggestions!

    Aug 23, 2012 at 6:03 AM


  • Snooth User: zinfandel1
    Hand of Snooth
    154660 1,004

    Anna
    You mention barrels made of Acacia wood. I never heard of this. Is it specific to this area?

    Aug 23, 2012 at 7:51 AM


  • Snooth User: Anna Savino
    Hand of Snooth
    640513 46,138

    Well i believe the austrians historically used acacia barrels but it here it is sometimes used for making grappas. These are often aged in various types of wood like acacia and chestnut... Good question!

    Aug 23, 2012 at 3:36 PM


  • Snooth User: luca chevalier
    Hand of Snooth
    533661 2,535

    ......outside the big cities you simply cannot move in italy you are right Anna! :-):-):-) ...this means i will invite you when i will do my next trip to Roero:-)
    Ciao

    Aug 23, 2012 at 7:34 PM


  • Snooth User: Anna Savino
    Hand of Snooth
    640513 46,138

    volentieri!

    Aug 24, 2012 at 4:51 AM


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