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Friday, October 1, 2010

Arneis

Arneis was not on the original road map for this season (see left), but being flexible is part of the fun. Based in the Roero in Piedmont, Arneis translates approximately into little rascal or stubborn one, illustrating its peculiar viticultural needs. It likes the legendary sandy soil that also produces asparagus, and Arneis is one of the go-tos for those difficult asparagus pairings (though they are not really that challenging, especially with sauce, egg, or cheese).

Arneis almost wasn't. By the 70's it had virtually disappeared all together. Arneis does not age, it is not a fruity or particularly hedonistic white, nor is it a stony or minerally and structured drink. Perhaps its greatest claim to fame was that it was also known as Barolo Bianco back in the day when Barolo was given away because no fool would ever buy such a poorly made wine - and Arneis was the diluting additive that tamed the tannin and acid of Nebbiolo.

So what should the Arneis experience be like? Almond is a big marker, as is a straw-ish hay-like component. (This is ironic incidentally because last year's special run white was Tocai Friulano, which has similar charcteristics in some ways though with a radically different nature, and is on sale now, hint hint). If you want mineral, there can be some of a delicate sort, not the bold aggressive stoniness of some though. Delicate flowers? Not really, but again some delicate haunting notes. The paradigm here is more in between a warm, roundish experience and a lean one of unusual nuances. I just say somewhat oceanic, somewhat continental.

Anyhow, if you don't mind leg hair in your wine, we whole-cluster pressed the Arneis, all 80 gallons, and now it is slowly fermenting away, hopefully producing a nice, clean Spring bottling. No battonage, no oak, no trickery. Just Arneis being what it is, and teaching us along the way.

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