Wine Profile: Arneis
The name Arneis means either “rascal” “difficult” or “stubborn” in the Piedmontese dialect. Here’s the good news for you, those names only apply to its difficulty in the winery. Though, that might explain why you don’t see the grape around as often as others.
SAVED BY THE BELL
Not only is Arneis difficult to grow and make, but it was also almost totally extinct as of the mid-1970s. The fact that it is still around today is thanks almost entirely to the efforts of just one winemaker, Alfredo Currado. In a region known and made famous for its full-bodied and highly tannic red wine Nebbiolo, Currado wanted a dry white wine that Piedmont could call it’s own. Today, Arneis is still primarily grown in Piedmont, more specifically in the hill of Roero, northwest of the town of Alba. That said, more and more acres have been added to the region since Currado resurrected the grape. Because of its resurgence and a growing global interest in dry aromatic white wines, plantings of Arneis have been popping up in California, Oregon, and Australia.
STUBBORN BUT SO TASTY
So why is Arneis such a “rascal” of a grape? Well for one, especially for a white wine, it is a late-ripening grape and relatively low yield. The longer time on the vine the more problems that could arise in the vineyard. That means that picking at just the right time is imperative since it already has naturally low acid picking too late could mean a flabby unbalanced wine. Once in the winery, Arneis is particularly prone to oxidation, which can lead to discoloration and wine going bad. All combined it’s not hard to see why the grape was once in decline. Unfortunately for winemakers though, despite its difficulty in the winery, it’s a really delicious wine.
BOLD AND MODEST
Arneis is a dry, clean, mineral-driven, and highly perfumed white wine. It’s fairly full-bodied with flavors ranging from light pear, apricot, peach, and lemon to fresh flowers and aromatic herbs. Contrary to a wine like Nebbiolo, it is highly unpretentious, and despite its name, very easy to drink. It is rarely aged in oak because the oak flavors can often overpower the wine’s fruit and structure. Arnies is also a naturally low acid grape, which means it’s best when it’s young and fresh.
THINK LIGHT AND FRESH
Unfortunately, that low acidity makes it a little tricky when it comes to pairing with food. That means that you want to focus on lighter preparations like pasta with fresh veggies and olive oil or poached fish. In general fish, and shellfish are a great match with Arneis. Recipes that involve citrus are particularly successful. However, along with low acidity, Arneis is also a pretty low alcohol wine, which means it can pair with spicy foods. An excellent choice would be with something like Spaghetti Puttanesca. But, really, Arneis is great all on its own.