The Ancient Origins of Arneis
The vines of this variety have always been cultivated by the farmers of the Roero, a hilly area particularly suited to viticulture and located in the north-eastern part of the province of Cuneo. The vine seems to have originated in this restricted geographical area, separated from the Langhe only by the Tanaro river. Historically present in the mixed crops of the local farmers, it spread during the 20th century only to the nearby Langhe and, to a lesser extent, to the northern coast of Sardinia, remaining an native Roero variety with a strong territorial identification. This is why today it is only used in the Roero denomination, with the designation Roero Arneis DOCG, in addition to the Langhe DOC.
A document dating back to 1478 AD provides the first historical evidence of this variety. In that document, reference is made to a particularly suitable vineyard located behind the village of Canale, called 'Bric Renesio'. The current name of the grape probably derives from the mispronunciation of this toponym, which, as it was handed down over the centuries, also took on the meaning of 'rebel' or 'extrovert' in the local dialect.
Traditionally, farmers grew this grape together with other varieties and used it only in blends or, in less favourable years, mixed it with Barbera and Nebbiolo Piedmont wines to soften their taste. According to an ancient and almost legendary practice, these vines were scattered among the rows of Nebbiolo so that the birds could eat the more visible and aromatic white grapes while sparing the precious red grapes. Large companies such as Cinzano and Fontanafredda, on the other hand, used them for the preparation of their sparkling wine bases, often in combination with the Moscato variety.
The use of this grape variety to produce still white wines is a fairly recent phenomenon. The first to do so were the enologists Umberto Ambrois, Sergio Battaglino, Giovanni Negro and Bruno Giacosa. They followed the example of the pioneer Alfredo Curraro, who in 1967 inaugurated the first vinification in purity of this grape, buying it from the peasants of Santo Stefano Roero who called it 'Nebbiolo Bianco', specially gathered by the parish priest of the village. The great wine critic Luigi Veronelli tasted this first version and praised it in the weekly Panorama magazine in the following way: "a white wine with a viperine backbone", "fruity, fresh, acidic, vibrating like the tail of a viper".
The great success of this variety came in 1985, when Ceretto Arneis was released on the market, bearing the original and modern name of Blangé. Its rich, fruity, intense and generous taste, contained in a bottle with a specially designed label by the Milanese architect Silvio Coppola, immediately made it a trendy icon and, even today, it is still one of the best known Italian wine specialities abroad. This success has contributed significantly to the enhancement of the variety and many producers have started to cultivate it, offering interesting and constantly changing interpretations.
The White Wines of Piedmont
Piedmont's wine scene is known above all for its great Nebbiolo-based reds, but the region's white wines are also becoming increasingly popular. Among these, the Arneis DOC Langhe stands out, whose appeal has allowed it to carve out ever larger market shares both in Italy and abroad. Today, it is regarded as the white equivalent of Nebbiolo. The characteristics of the vine, together with the soil and climatic conditions of the area, allow for production of high quality wines, featuring good body, aromatic intensity and expressive immediacy.
The most famous and suitable territory for this type of grape is the Roero, where it has been cultivated for centuries. This is why the most prestigious and well-known expressions are protected by the Roero DOCG. These are white wines with generous aromas, sapidity and freshness. The most typical and territorial scents are those of fresh almond, citrus, pear, white flowers and aromatic herbs, with slight mineral nuances. When aged in wooden barrels, it becomes full-bodied and soft, with hints of honey, vanilla and tropical fruit.
It pairs well on the table with fish dishes, shellfish, first courses with vegetables, stuffed pasta, delicate cold cuts and fresh cheeses. More developed versions can also be paired with fried foods, fresh mushrooms and white meats such as rabbit and poultry. In any case, it is always ready to liven up a meal with its pleasant and dynamic spirit, which never lacks energy and expressiveness.
Discover the different styles of Arneis for sale online on the Callmewine store at special prices, and buy the bottles you prefer by taking advantage of the many offers.