This white variety is grown just north-west of Alba. Arneis, the grape from which it is made, literally means “little rasal” in Piedmontese dialect. It got this name from the farmers who first cultivated it in the fifteenth century – it was notoriously difficult to grow and its yields were rather inconsistent. It is a sweet grape that has the tendency to reach over ripeness quickly, and is a particularly popular with local birds and insects who feast on unprotected areas. However, with the recent acclaim of the Roero Arneis dry white wine, this grape is quickly gaining the reputation of being Piedmonte’s Nebbiolo Blanco.
This elegant, crisp white reflects the characteristics of its terroir, which has sandy soils that are rich in pre-historic marine deposits. This gives the wine a slight minerality that underlies the more prominent flavours of green apples, pears and tart apricot. There are also slightly bitter finishes of almond and hazelnut, and the subtlest of hints of wild herbs. The invigorating bouquet is similarly herby, with suggestions of tangerine, honeysuckle, acacia and cedar. Certain Roeros may feature strong palates of grapefruit or cantaloupe. It is a full-bodied, structured wine despite these relatively delicate characteristics.
This wine first made an appearance in the 1400s, and was almost lost to the world forever when farmers replaced Arneis vineyards with those of the more resilient and profitable Barbera grape. The extent of this replacement was so extreme that the Arneis would have become extinct, were it not for the small efforts of a handful of local farmers who cultivated it for personal use. Thankfully, in the 1960s, it enjoyed a revival through the experiments of Cantina Vietta in Canale, and by the 1990s, exploded back on the scene with an overwhelming resurgence in popularity.
It is a good accompaniment to summery hors d’oeuvres and crunchy crudities with creamy dips. It also pairs nicely with seafood, light soups and white meats. The high acidity of the wine means that it perfectly cuts through the richness of cured meats and sausages, like salami.
The summertime Piedmontese menu also boasts a variety of worthy partners for a good glass of Roero. Try it with Friciule, a local treat that consists of sheets of dough layered with prosciutto. It is also good with Tagliolini, or Tajarin in Piemontese, which is a hearty speciality of ribbon-like pasta noodles tossed with butter and white truffle. The ultimate summertime Roero partner-in-crime, however, is Vitello Tonnato, in which cold slivers of veal are topped with a creamy mayonnaise and tuna sauce.
The most famous vineyards for Roero Arneis are located around Canale, a municipality within the province of Cuneo. It is famous for wine, truffles and peaches, the latter of which are featured in an annual festival that celebrates the town’s flourishing agricultural heritage. Take a stroll through its charming lanes and discover its fascinating architectural traditions. Notable sites are the Parish Church of St. Vittore, which was built in the eighth century and the Baroque masterpiece Church of St. John the Beheaded.