Of all the countries we studied in the Intensive Sommelier Training at the International Culinary Center, I found Italy to be the most perplexing and I felt like we didn’t spend enough time on it, especially since it is the second largest wine producer following France. So, as soon as we graduated and passed the Certified Sommelier exams my first thought was, “I need to revisit Italy.” Then when it was decided by my fellow sommeliers that we would begin with Italy in our study group I was more than willing to go along.
Our chosen text books for this current course of study are Vino Italiano: The Regional Wines of Italy and The Finest Wines of Tuscany and Central Italy: A Regional and Village Guide to the Best Wines and Their Producers (The World’s Finest Wines)
In our first meeting in which we tasted wines from Piedmont, most of us had not received our texts books yet or had just received them in the mail so we didn’t have time to read them. So, our first gathering was fairly informal and we just brought wines from the region to share and taste. Some of them were “grid wines” and others were not.
Our first wine was an Arneis which is not on the grid for the Advanced Sommelier tasting exam. The only Italian white wines on the grid are Pinot Grigio from Friuli and Trentino- Alto Adige.
Arneis, which means “little rascal” in Piemontese, is commonly found in the hills of the northwest of Alba, where it is part of the Roero DOCG white wines and Langhe DOC wines. It is produced just across the Tanaro River from Barolo, and is sometimes referred to as Bianchetto or Barolo Bianco (white Barolo). I have also come across this grape on a few occasions in my wine travels in California.
It was once on the verge of extinction just prior to the 1960’s until a few producers decided to save this difficult grape; it is low-yielding and susceptible to powdery mildew, and in warm seasons struggles to retain sufficient levels of acidity.
The Vietti winery began as a family farm in the 1800’s which was then converted to a winery by Mario Vietti in 1919. In 1952 Alfredo Currado (Luciana Vietti’s husband) continued the family business produce high quality wines from their estate vineyards as well as purchased grapes. The Vietti winery grew to one of the top-level producers in Piemonte and was one of the first wineries to export its products to the USA market. Alfredo was one of the first to select and vinify grapes from single vineyards (such as Brunate, Rocche and Villero). In 1967 Alfredo invested a lot of time to better understand, revive and preserve this nearly exinct variety, earning him the reputation as the “father of Arneis.” Today they own 35 hectares (86 acres) of vineyards from which they produce all the major Italian varietals.
The 2012 Vietti Roero Arneis is a clear white wine, lemon in color with a tint of green and medium- viscosity. On the nose it is clean with moderate- intense aromas of lemon pith, lemon grass, green melon, green apple, canned pineapple juice, fresh kiwi, subtle notes of passion fruit, hints of almonds and salty sea breeze minerality. It is dry with very high acidity, medium body, medium alcohol (13.5), it is well-balanced and had a moderate length finish. I have experienced about a half dozen Arneis or so and this one is better than any other I have tasted.