The Piedmont region of northwest Italy is well known as the birthplace of some of the world’s greatest wines. Barbera thrives nearly everywhere but it is the nebbiolo-based wines of Barolo and Barbaresco that adorn collector’s cellars around the globe. What often gets overlooked is that Piedmont is also a source for some very compelling dry white wines.
Since we are talking dry I can leave the most planted white varietal, moscato, out of the conversation. Cortese di Gavi, Favorita and Erbaluce all produce notable white wines, but for my taste the best of all the dry white wines of Piedmont is Arneis.
Arneis (are-Nays) has an interesting story. In the local dialect Arneis translates as, “Little Rascal” because it is notoriously difficult to grow. In the past it was planted more in an effort to keep birds and bees away from the red grapes. It was also used traditionally to blend into the red nebbiolo wines to soften them. Because of this it was sometimes called white Barolo by some of its admirers. Despite some of its fans it was on the verge of disappearing in the early 1970s until a few producers (Vietti and Bruno Giacosa) were determined to produce quality Arneis.
Today there is an explosion of interest in Arneis and plantings now total nearly 1,500 acres. Almost all of the Arneis vines are planted around the town of Alba either in the Langhe hills or just to the north in an emerging appellation known as Roero. In the hands of a good winemaker, Arneis produces floral-scented wines with delicate aromas similar to Viognier. In Jancis Robinson’s Oxford Companion to Wine, she list Cascina Chicco as one of the best producers of Arneis.
Cascina Chicco Arneis is the newest edition to our dynamic Italian wine selection. This wine has fragrant apricot and apple scents with notes of chamomile and spice in the mouth. Well balanced with good complexity and a lingering finish. I can’t get enough of this little rascal.
Paul Quaglini, Wine & Spirits Supervisor
Follow me on Twitter @abcwinepaulq