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Arneis: Piedmont's great white

Deep in the Piedmont region, where red grapes are the tradition, the Arneis grape is a difficult rebel, growing where it shouldn’t and tasting like no other white… 

In fact, in the local dialect, “Arneis” means rascal, due to its unreliability. Yet, it somehow has stubbornly dug its roots into the unsuitable sandy soils in Roero, between the towns of Bra and Alba, and produces one of the most original and singular taste sensations. There are several styles being produced, but a well-made Arneis will share the common denominators of a well-structured and complex yet mysteriously uncomplicated body, refreshing acidity, and a long, solid finish. Always drunk very young, its an aromatic rainbow of white blossoms, camomile, apricots, pears, the pulpy white flesh of a green apple, ripe damson, dried herbs, warm hay, an unidentifiable touch of savoury, and its very distinctive perfume of almonds. It does wonders for many cheeses, pasta dishes and, believe it or not, is the absolute perfect match for asparagus.

The Piedmont producers are a bit divided in opinion about Arneis. It suffers from the hangover of a previous bad reputation…from, as usual the 1970’s and the days of sweet bulk wines. Then, the grape was not taken very seriously and was nearly abandoned, until some of the producers figured out that they would need some good whites to counterbalance their predominant red production. Don’t forget, Piedmont is the land of Barbera, Barolo, Barbaresco, Dolcetto: the Italian red icons. A white wine from here has to be rather special to hold its own. Arneis certainly manages this beautifully. 



Bruno Giacosa Roero Arneis 2009, Fine and Rare Wines,

Signore Giocosa is the premier producer of Arneis. Unmissable. His Arneis is always delicious, distinctive and unique.


Malvirà Roero Arneis 2008, Waitrose Wine Direct,

Arneis in the classic style, by the Damonte brothers: meadow flowers, hay, fruit, almonds, all presented on a crisp, minerally palate.


Andy Muscat at New Generation Wines also has a good one ... call him.

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