Casina Val del Prete Roero Arneis “Luet” 2016
Winegrower: Mario Roagna, Casina Val del Prete
Region: Roero, Piedmont, Italy
Available: Fall 2017
“Casina Val del Prete is one of the leading estates of Roero. Working out of his tiny estate in Priocco, proprietor Mario Roagna fashions wines that are remarkable for their sheer pleasure and drinkability.”
- Robert Parker, Jr. Parker’s Wine Buyers Guide, 7th Edition, page 857
“Good Arneis can be utterly irresistible… One of Italy’s most delicious white wines, exhibiting a thrilling range of aromas and flavors of surprising if subtle complexity.”
- Ian D’Agata, Native Wine Grapes of Italy, page 184
Today we are thrilled to offer yet another extraordinary Italian white at an almost unbelievable price; Casina Val del Prete’s Roero Arneis “Luet” 2016. This is a more bold interpretation of the Arneis grape; it’s a bigger, fatter version made in a richer texture. Mario Roagna, one of Roero’s, and Piedmont’s, foremost biodynamic winegrowers, crafted this wine. Made from handpicked grapes and fermented with indigenous yeasts, it has undergone malolactic fermentation. This is a dry, crisp and refreshing wine with ample body and a compelling array of sage, white flowers, chamomile, stone fruit, flavours of honey and minerality in an authoritative style. Enjoy this wine with oysters on the half shell, Crab Imperial, lobster, Caesar salad, goat cheese, veal or carpaccio. It’s an incredibly versatile wine that, at $24, you’ll be happy you bought by the case because it represents such incredible value.
Arneis is an ancient grape that dates back to 1492 in the record books. Grown in many parts of Piedmont, its home is Roero. For most of its history, Arneis stood in the shadows of Nebbiolo. It was even added to Nebbiolo because its lower acidity was used to soften things up. And because Arneis produces sweeter grapes, has a stronger fragrance and ripens earlier, it was planted in Nebbiolo vineyards to attract birds away from feeding on those grapes. By the 1970s Arneis just about disappeared. But things changed in the 1980s when Arneis became one of Italy’s most prized, if less internationally recognized, white grape varieties. Arneis is excellent at expressing terroir and geological differences can produce significantly different wines. It is also happiest in the white, friable, porous soils of cooler, north facing vineyards in Roero. There, variations in the soil’s sand, chalk, and marl help produce the finest Arneis; and on the cooler, north facing vineyards, where it is sheltered from the harsh afternoon sun, the grape’s refreshing acidity is preserved. Generally ripe in mid-September, it must be picked immediately; a day or two later and the acidity can drop off and the potential to produce good wine lost.
Roero, though dwarfed by its more famous neighbours, is a region to know. It’s a small DOCG of rolling, hilly vineyards that extends for 25 km on the banks of the Tanaro River opposite the town of Alba, and it’s known for its refreshing white Arneis and its bold, fragrant and well-priced Nebbiolo wines. Where the finest Arneis wines come from north facing vineyards, the finest Nebbiolos come from those facing south that are steep and sandy. Roero Nebbiolo is about value. Though not yet held in the same regard as Borolo or Barberesco, it has improved over the past 20 years so as to offer excellent prices for wines that in many cases are better than entry level wines from those two prestigious appellations. The region was upgraded to DOCG status (Italy’s highest in terms of quality) in 2005 and efforts are underway to create official subzone classifications similar to grand cru vineyards.
Casina Val del Prete (Valley of the Priest) is the most famous and important estate in Roero, and is named after the exiled Bishop of Asti who made it his home in 1850. In 1977 Bartlolomeo Roagna and his wife Carolina bought this 13-hectare farm on which they had worked as sharecroppers for many years. Their son, Mario Roagna, has managed the estate since 1995. He is a painstakingly particular farmer that is committed to biodynamic farming. Mario only grows the indigenous grape varieties of Arneis, Barbera and Nebbiolo. The estate sits in a beautiful mainly south facing amphitheatre at 820 meters with the winery and cellars in the middle surrounded by hillside vineyards. The quality of Mario’s wines has been recognized many times by Gambero Rosso’s Italian Wines publication and others. Annual production is around 4,000 cases.
Today’s Val del Prete Roero Arneis “Luet” 2016 came from handpicked grapes of 20-year-old vines. Fermentation was spontaneous with indigenous yeasts. Sixty percent of the juice was macerated on the skins in stainless steel tanks and the other 40% in oak barrels. The wine rested on its lees for 3 months then was combined and aged in stainless steel tanks for another 4 months. It was then lightly filtered and bottled with minimal sulphur and aged another 3 months before release. Total production was around 1,000 cases. This Arneis is rich, ripe and splendidly seductive with lush fruit and a full mouth feel. It’s pale gold in colour with slight green hints, and has heady aromatics of white flowers, ripe apples and apricots, and chamomile. On the palate it is bone dry, full bodied and has an almost creamy feel with fruit and citrus flavours, notes of honey and minerals balanced by a crisp, refreshing acidity and a medium long finish. Serve at 10˚ in white stems with these broiled oysters and WOW, it just doesn’t get any better!