One of the joys of Italian wines is finding a wine like no other; Arneis, a dry white from Piemonte is one of those treasures.
The word Arneis is roughly translated in local dialect as “rascal.” This is used to describe a youngster who gives his or her parents a bit of trouble.
Arneis can also be translated as “crazy” and that’s exactly what people thought of producers in the 1960s who wanted to produce a white wine in the midst of the Barolo zone. Luca Currado, current winemaker for Vietti, one of the best-known producers of Arneis, tells me that his father decided to produce a white wine after finding this variety in the middle of vineyards planted to Nebbiolo, the great red variety that is the sole grape used in Barolo. This white grape was known as “Nebbia Bianca” at the time (later it became known as Arneis) and Alfredo Currado decided to ferment the grapes separately instead of with other red grapes. Thus Vietti is generally credited as being the first producer to work with Arneis in 1967.
Today, there are several producers of Barolo or Barbaresco who also produce an Arneis; among the best are not only Vietti, but also Bruno Giacosa and Gianni Voerzio. Both Vietti and Giacosa produce a Roero Arneis, meaning the grapes are from the Roero district, located across the Tanaro River from the Barolo and Barbaresco zones. As the soils are not as thin here and are also sandier, they are ideal for this white variety.
Most bottlings are aged in stainless steel and not oak to preserve the delicate aromatics of pine, melon and pear. Medium to medium-full, Arneis has lovely texture and a dry finish with lively acidity. These wines should generally be enjoyed in their youth. The current 2008s are quite good, while the 2007s are generally outstanding. It’s doubtful you’d find examples of older bottlings of Arneis, though I recently tried a bottle of 2005 from Vietti, which was in fine shape.
Naturally, there are several impressive producers of Arneis in the Roero district; among these are Cascina Chicco, Cascina Pellerino, Malvira and Matteo Correggia. The last two producers are among my favorite; the Coreggia being a richer, fatter, more lush style, while the various bottlings from Malvira tend to be more subtle with complex floral and herbal aromatics (especially the Trinita bottling).
Producers of Arneis worth searching for include:
- Bruno Giacosa
- Matteo Correggia