Arneis is a white grape native to the Piedmont region of northwest Italy. It also goes by the name of Nebbiolo Blanco, despite not having any genetic relation to the famed dusty black grape. This nickname arose because significant quantities of Arneis are planted across the Tanaro River from Barolo, an area famous for their wines made of Nebbiolo. Small quantities of Arneis have been added to wines containing Barbera and Nebbiolo to soften the tannins that can be harsh. Arneis translates into ‘little rascal’, an apt moniker considering how difficult growing the grape can be.
The Vietti family has been a constant in Piedmont since the late 19th century when Carlo Vietti founded the Vietti wine cellar. Carlo had two sons, Giovanni and Mario. Giovanni was a farmer and took over running the operations in the early 20th century. Mario opted to travel and found himself in the US until Giovanni’s untimely passing. At this time Mario was called back to the family farm and began running it in 1919. Mario became known as the ‘crazy American’ because of his unpopular changes he made in an area where change was not welcomed. Mario’s son in law, Alfredo Currado, was possibly more groundbreaking in the region due to being the first to introduce stainless steel tanks and to make single vineyard wines. It was a discussion and challenge from Alfredo’s priest that resulted in the planting of Arneis in the Roero region. Alfredo became known as the father of Arnies and produced the first single varietal bottling in 1967. The Vietti winery sold ownership to a food retailer in 2016 which was very recently followed by the surprising news that the faces of the brand, Luca Currado (Alfred’s son) and his wife Elena Penna, were stepping away from the winery to focus on other projects.
This week, I drank a 2021 Vietti Roero Arneis, DOCG that I picked up from a tasting hosted by Elena Penna at my local wine shop a few months ago. The tasting mainly featured Barolos and Barberas but I saw they produced Arneis, so I had to try a bottle. This wine was the palest light straw color with some bubbles that clang to the base of the glass but would collect on the surface as I gently swirled. Aromas of stoney minerality, lemon pith, white grapefruit juice, lime zest, as well as honeysuckle, gardenia and orange blossoms were readily apparent on the nose. This dry, light bodied wine had a level of acid that tightened the jaw and wet the palate. As I sat and analyzed the flavors, I was surprised by the heat from the high level of alcohol that warmed my mouth and throat. Lemon pith and wet gravel started on the front palate but gave way to lime curd, orange blossom and green apple gummy candy that lingered on the finish. This wine would be wonderful with a creamy tarragon sauce over white fish or pasta with a light cream sauce.