Arneis: a study

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Piemonte’s ‘Little Rascal’, so named for its tricky nature in the vineyard, Arneis has been rooted in Roero, in the northwest of Italy since possibly the 15th century, growing up alongside Nebbiolo. The perfumed white grape was historically planted alongside the noble red, attracting birds to its sweet scent in hopes of keeping precious Nebbiolo intact and through harvest. During the 20th century, Arneis plantings steadily declined, leaving only a few hectares intact. Thanks to the restorative efforts of Alfredo Currado of Vietti, as well as Bruno Giacosa, the grape continued, and is in healthy footing today with over 600 hectares in Piemonte. It has also been planted promisingly in California and Oregon, in New Zealand’s Gisbourne, and Australia’s Tasmania and Victoria regions, amongst other spatterings. Typically unoaked, the wine pours a light golden hue, with pear, white peach, tangerine and almond at the fore across a medium to full body.

Here are recently tasted Arneis that impressed Goode (JG) and me (TR):

Daniele Pelassa San Vito Roero Arneis 2020 Piemonte, Italy
13.5% alcohol. Fresh and taut with a slight talcum powder edge to the vivid, slightly stony citrus and green apple fruit, with a fine spicy flourish on the finish. Juicy and vivid, and quite fine in a very bright way. Has a twist of soluble asprin at the end. 90/100 (JG)

Marco Porello Roero Arneis Camestri 2020 Piemonte, Italy
13.5% alcohol. This is very bright with a frilly citrus edge to the palate, and notes of pear, wet stones and spice. Fruit-driven but with a distinctive savoury dimension. There’s such a lovely mineral twist here with a wet stone and pear skin finish. There’s a lot going on here. 92/100 (JG)

Marco Porello is a 3rd generation winemaker who took over the family vineyards in 1994. The Arneis here comes from the single camestri vineyard in the mineral rich clay hills of Alba. You can feel the stony buzz in the undercurrent of this wine, bedding wild pear, lemon, quince, subtle pear blossoms. Subtle, yet holds your attention, which is a very alluring combination. 90/100 (TR)

Battaglino Roero Arneis Bastia 2020 Piemonte, Italy
13.5% alcohol. This is full flavoured and finely grained, with a slight spicy edge to the pear and green apple fruit, with a nice lemony finish. There’s a sort of stony minerality here that’s really attractive, offsetting the fruit really nicely. 92/100 (JG)

Fabrizio Battaglino Bastia Roero Arneis 2020, Piemonte, Italy
This Arneis comes from the San Michele del comune di Canale, in Piemonte’s Roero. It was fermented and rested briefly in stainless (no MLF) to preserve freshness. Bright pear, yellow apple, delicate white florals waft across a subtle palate, gently persistently humming through the finish. 88/100 (TR)

Bruna Grimaldi Arneis 2020, Piemonte, Italy
Azienda Bruna Grimaldi is a family-owned winery in the hills of Barolo, now in the capable hands of Bruna, who takes over from the generations of winemakers who preceded her. Bruna and her husband, Franco Fiorino, put the winery on the map, bottling their first label in 1999. From organically farmed loam, limestone and clay soiled vineyards on the Barolo border, these grapes were fermented in stainless, with no MLF, and a couple of months on lees with bâtonnage. Silky and gentle, with lemon blossoms and crystalline lemon, subtly perfumed quince, and almond. The finish rings with buzzing limestone. Quite alluring in its simplicity. 90/100 (TR)

Moon Curser Arneis 2020, Osoyoos, Okanagan Valley, BC
As far as I, or they, know, Moon Curser is the only one in Canada working with Arneis, the star white from Piemonte. Rooted on the Osoyoos east bench, this was cool fermented in stainless, with no MLF, where it stayed on lees without bâtonnage until the following spring, when it was bottled. The 2020 has slimmed out some since the 2019, bringing more peach fuzz and apricot to the fore, and shedding some of the flabby glycerol on the palate. Lime pith and grapefruit peel continue to tighten this very full bodied white (nearing 15%). Hopefully this trend towards lightness continues in future. 88/100 (TR)

Damilano Arneis 2018, Piemonte, Italy
Damilano is one of the oldest wineries in Barolo, dating back to 1890 when Giuseppe Borgogno started cultivating and producing wine from the grapes from his own vineyards. This comes from 20 year old vines, rooted in sand, and fermented and aged briefly in stainless, to hold freshness. Bright and vibrant in youth, this glides quince, herbal pear along a silken palate, amply buffered with lees and an oily texture reflective of the grape. Quite complete and mouthfulling, belying its welcome 13%. A fantastic food-friendly white, for anything from spring green salads, to fresh halibut, to bagna cauda. 90/100 (TR)

Angelo Negro Vino Bianco 2018, Piemonte, Italy
Imported into America by The Piedmont Guy, this vino bianco is an unfiltered Arneis from Roero’s calcareous sandy soils. Angelo Negro is a historically significant winery doing back to 1670, the year that two of the estate’s most important vineyards, Perdaudin and Prachiosso, were first planted. With some of the most desired vineyard sites in Roero, Negro is one of the indisputable legends of the region. Giovanni Negro, the estate’s present owner, produced the first dry Roero Arneis on record in 1971. Today, they farm 64 hectares with organic practices. This was fermented in stainless, where it remained sur lie with battonage for four months, with no MLF. Pouring slightly cloudy, green apple acidity tightens crab apple bitterness, layered with yeasty lees, yellow fruits, and lifted with a fine spritz. The sourness returns on the finish, more apparently when the glass is warming up. Pleasant lighter arneis for serving briskly and soon. 88/100 (TR)

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Treve Ring

Treve Ring is a wine writer and editor, judge and speaker, and perpetual traveller. [She is also Correspondent Anorak.]