The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Spotlight on Roero Arneis, a Subtle Piemonte Gem

Posted on | November 11, 2013 | Written by IWM Staff | No Comments

Roero-Arneis-DocgThe first thing that needs to be said about Piemonte’s Roero (Roero Arneis) DOCG is this: it is the only DOCG designation for a pair of wines. One wine is white (Roero Arneis), the other is red (Roero), and both contain at least some portion of Arneis, arguably the most important white wine grape of Piemonte. Saying that, mostly what you’re going to find in the States is the white kind, but fortunately, it’s delicious and it’ll make you happy.

Located just northwest of Alba, across the Tanaro River, are the hills of Roero, a densely forested area that’s better known for its desirable truffle yields than for its grape production. The principle grape in the area is the austere, full-bodied Nebbiolo, but the lilting, floral Arneis has received considerable attention in recent decades.  Somewhat dissimilar to the soil in the Barolo’s Lange Hills, soils in Roero are primarily sandy, resulting in wines that possess opulent and delicate bouquets. Roero, like it neighboring regions, enjoys a continental climate, with altitudes edging around 1,300 feet, and the wines it produces tend to be highly structured, if more accessible than those of regions nearby.

Both Roero and Roero Arneis received DOC status in 1989, and both were elevated to DOCG status in 2005. This side-by-side entry into the DOC fairly replicates how the two varietals of the wines have commonly been grown. In the vineyard, Arneis was interspersed throughout rows of Nebbiolo grapes to divert birds and other pests from nibbling the ripening Nebbiolo grapes.  Producers also used Arneis to soften Nebbiolo’s firm tannins in an effort to create a more approachable, younger drinking red wine. In the 1960s, when Alfredo Currado of the Vietti Estate began to revive the Arneis, a grape then nearing extinction, Arneis got a new–and independent–lease on life. When Arneis reappeared on the scene in the late 70s and 80s, major producers including Ceretto and Bruno Giacosa started making wines making monovarietal wines.

As a result of quality productions and favorable market reception, and Roero’s achieving DOC status in 1989, the production of Roero Arneis quadrupled in the years that followed, and plantings of the grape surged from 300 acres to more than 1,000.  To be classified as Roero Arneis, wines must be comprised of 100% Arneis; the Roero designation requires between 95-98% Nebbiolo and 2-5% Arneis, which essentially makes it a Nebbiolo wine. Roero Arneis may be still or spumante, with required ageing set at 8 months. Roero (rossos) must follow similar guidelines.  Wines designated as superiore must also receive at minimum eight months ageing.

Roero Arneis is peachy, peary, lilting, aromatic and a fine alternative to Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc. Try it with BBQ, shelfish, sweet or buttery sauces, and soft cheeses.

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