Chiesa Carlo Roero Arneis Quin DOCG 2015
Winegrower: Chiesa Carlo
Region: Roero (Piedmont), Italy
Available: Fall 2017
When we think of wine from Italy’s Piedmont region we usually think reds, but there is a white wine that should be on everyone’s radar, and I’m not talking about wines made from common grapes like Cortese, Pinot Blanc or Vermentino, but of Arneis. I must admit that I’ve had mixed feelings about Arneis for years. I like Vietti’s but I like all things Vietti, and I also like Casina Val del Prete’s, (more on them in the future) but that’s about it. I’ve always thought that Arneis was a subtle and undramatic grape with a profile that can be easily skewed. Most Arneis is the product of commercial yeasts and modern wine making techniques that produces what I believe to be uniformly boring, one dimensional and dull wines. I’ve also found that many of the so-called better versions have nuances of wood, or they lack acidity – the result of too ripe of grapes - or have sweet undertones, which is not at all to my liking. Then I discovered a little known winegrower – Chiesa Carlo. Their Arneis Quin is without a doubt the best yet. This wine elevates Arneis to a totally new level of pleasure: It’s lively and bright, savoury with a chalky minerality, and clean with a rich underlying texture. It has pear and honey flavours that remind me of Chenin and is by far the most delicious and interesting Arneis I’ve had yet. And considering that Arneis can sell from the low $20’s to $35 or more, ours is priced at a sweet $27 while besting all the rest in drinking pleasure. In other-words its tops in QPR and you’ll only find it here.
First mentioned in 1492, Arneis is both the name of the wine and the grape from which it is made. It means ‘little rascal’ because it was difficult to grow, and in the early 70’s it just about disappeared. That said, it was difficult to grow because the best vineyards were dedicated to the more important Nebbiolo grape and Arneis was left to fend for itself in ‘lesser’ sites. Arneis was also planted to attract birds away from the more valuable red grape vineyards – think Nebbiolo again. And because it was added to Nebbiolo wines to soften their harsh tannins it was nicknamed ‘Barolo Bianco’. In more recent times the trend for red wines became 100% Nebbiolo and by the 1970’s Arneis had become virtually extinct. But there were a few producers like Chiesa that began to bottle their own wines and helped save the variety, lucky for us. Arneis can now be found throughout Piedmont but is most prominent in Roero, the district named after the family, which ruled the area long ago.
Chiesa Carlo is located in Roero in the heavily forested province of Cuneo in Southern Piedmont. The region’s stunningly beautiful landscape is very hilly and gives it a more compact and intimate feeling than the nearby Langhe that is now mostly dedicated to vineyards. Roero achieved DOCG status in 2006. White wines labeled Roero Arneis must be made from 100% Arneis grapes.
The Chiesa family is what one would call ‘established.’Daniel, David and Renato say jokingly that they are practically newcomers to Roero, but their family have owned their vineyards and farm for well over 350 years. And they can assert with authority that only copper and sulphur have ever been used on their vines, which occupy hillside vineyards covering 9 hectares. Their work in the cellar is similarly straightforward and traditional. Their wines stand out for their lack of intervention and manipulation, which shows through in their purity and focus. The Chiesa family is also unique in that theirs is a thriving multigenerational farm engaged in polyculture, and to anyone who’s been there everything seems to be in perfect harmony. Production of all red and white wines is just over 4,000 cases and these are mainly sold to local shops and restaurants. Only about 10% is exported, mostly to Germany, Switzerland and United States.
The 2015 Chiesa Roero Arneis Quin is made from handpicked grapes from vines planted in 1960 in sandy soils with a southeast exposure. It was fermented in stainless steel with natural, indigenous yeasts and some light batonnage until malolactic fermentation. It was then aged in stainless steel for 6 months, lightly filtered and bottled with just a touch of added sulphur. This wine is straw yellow with notes of white flowers and dried herbs on the nose. On the palate it is dry, crisp and refreshing, offering green pear, apple, white peach and honey notes with a citrusy, mineral core of substance and hints of almond. This wine is superb with light pastas, fish and shellfish and would be great with this halibut and clams dish. Serve in a white wine glass at 10˚ then sit back and enjoy!