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Arneis is a white Italian wine grape variety originating from Piedmont, Italy. It is most commonly found in the hills of the Roero, northwest of Alba, where it is part of the white Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) wines of Roero. It can also be used to produce DOC wines in Langhe.[1] Arneis (literally: little rascal, in Piedmontese) is so called because it is regarded as a somewhat difficult variety to grow. It is a crisp and floral varietal, and has been grown for centuries in the region. The white wines made from the Arneis grape tend to be dry and full body with notes of pears and apricots.[2]

Contents

History

For centuries the white Arneis grape was used to soften the tannins and harshness of Nebbiolo grape in the wines of the Barolo region, hence the common synonym of Barolo Bianco or "white Barolo".[3] In the 20th century, as Barolo producers begun focusing on 100% varietal Nebbiolo, acreage steadily declined almost to the point where the variety was on the verge of extinction. By the 1970s, only two producers were making any kind of Arneis. The 1980s saw a renaissance in interest for white Piedmont wines and plantings began to increase. As of 2006 there were nearly 1500 acres (600 hectares) of Arneis in the Piedmont region.[1]

Wine regions

Arneis is found primarily in the Italian wine region of Piedmont where it is featured in the white DOC wines of Roero and Langhe. It is permitted as a blending grape in the red Nebbiolo based wines of DOC Roero but its use in this capacity is today rarely seen.[3] In 2004, nearly 1 million gallons (38,000 hectoliters) of DOC designated Arneis was produced in these two regions. Outside of Italy, there are limited plantings of Arneis in Australia and California[1] and recently New Zealand.

Viticulture and winemaking

The Arneis vine can be a difficult grape to cultivate, with naturally low acidity and tendency to get over ripe if it is harvested after September.[1] Additionally, the vine is prone to powdery mildew though recent cloning research has begun to isolate clones of Arneis that have more tolerance to mildew. The vine's propensity for low crop yields and for the wine to oxidize easily, contributed to its steady decline in the early to mid 20th century. Better understanding of the variety in the later half of the century helped revive the variety as winemakers found that the chalky, sandy soils around Roero gave the grapes more acidity and structure while Arneis grapes planted in sandy clay soil developed an elegant and exotic perfume.[3]

Arneis historical role has been as a softening for Nebbiolo, though today the grape is more commonly seen as a varietal wine. Wines fermented and/or aged in oak will be more full bodied while unoaked Arneis can have more aromatics and perfume. Arneis has the potential to produced highly perfumed wines with aromas of almonds, apricots, peaches, pears and hops. Some producers make a late harvest passito Arneis.[3]

Synonyms

Some of the common synonyms for Arneis include Barolo Bianco, Bianchetta d'Alba, Bianchetto, Bianchetto di Verzuelo and Nebbiolo Bianco.

References

  1. ^ a b c d J. Robinson (ed) "The Oxford Companion to Wine" Third Edition pg 35 Oxford University Press 2006 ISBN 0198609906
  2. ^ K. MacNeil The Wine Bible pg 331-333 Workman Publishing 2001 ISBN 1563054345
  3. ^ a b c d Oz Clarke Encyclopedia of Grapes pg 38 Harcourt Books 2001 ISBN 0151007144
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