My Favorite Wine, week of August 12, 2021

2019 Giovanni Almondo
‘Bricco della Ciliegie’
Roero Arneis
Regular price: $27.99 per Bottle

Sale Price:$21.99

I recently noticed that the 35th anniversary edition of Kevin Zraly’s famous book, the ‘Windows of the World Complete Wine Course’ was released. I’m old enough to remember the initial edition, in which Zraly stated, with confidence, while lacking accuracy, that there were no Italian white wines worth discussing. I was (and remain) appalled. Learning that an alleged expert was so lacking in awareness and knowledge to make such a ridiculous assertion left me lacking trust in wine ‘experts’ to this day.

(Uh, for the record, white wines have been made in Italy for a few (or more) millennia.)

Anyway, this is one of those white wines that Zraly missed. Arneis has been planted and grown and made into wine in Piedmont since at least the 15th century. For centuries the white grape was used to soften the tannins and harshness of Nebbiolo grape in the wines of the Barolo region, hence the common reference of Arneis as Nebbiolo biancoBarolo bianco or “white Barolo”. Significantly,  Arneis was also often planted with Nebbiolo in the vineyard with the aim of having the sweet scent of ripe Arneis berries attract birds and keep them away from the more valuable Nebbiolo clusters. 

Arneis was nearly extinct when Zraly initially wrote his book (a poor excuse) but due to the efforts of (mainly) the Giacosa and Vietti families, Arneis plantings increased in the 80s before declining in acreage once again as the century turned. However, by this time, Giovanni Almondo had taken charge of his family’s 400 year of vineyards and was re-planting Arneis in the same historic location it was once found.

This wine, affectionately called “Bricco della Ciliegie” (for the cherry orchard where the vines were replanted) is classic Arneis. Its lush and rich with ripe pear aromas, herbal nuances and a touch of salinity. The wine does see a touch of oak aging, barely enough to be noticed, which enhances its concentration and weight. Firm, persistent yet unobtrusive acidity rounds out the wine allowing it to pair well with hearty fish and pasta dishes. This is a lovely and easy to like wine, which delivers both elegance and pleasure.

And that, folks, is the problem with the ‘Zralys’ who dismiss white wines simply because they don’t shout loudly enough for their tastes. To arrogantly ignore an entire category of wines from a country that has been producing those same wines for centuries smacks of a severe lacking of awareness, not a high level of expertise. It’s akin to the heavy metal fan simply dismissing acoustical guitar because of the lack of guitar feedback. And whether that opinion is offered by a learned ‘expert’ or not, makes it no more accurate. (PW)