Everything old is made new again, as the cliché goes, and this is sometimes true with wine—just look at Arneis.
Native to the Piedmont region of Italy, Arneis is a white wine variety found in the hills of Roero outside Alba. Over the course of centuries, as the Nebbiolo grape gave rise to the famous Barolo and Barbaresco of the area, Arneis lurked in the background. It was frequently used as a blending grape to soften the tannins of Barolo, in the same way as a dollop of Viognier is blended into Cote-Rotie to lend it smoothness. As a result, it became colloquially known as “white Barolo,” although winemakers had another name for it—“little rascal,” because it was difficult and treacherous to grow.
Winemaking technology improved greatly during the 20th century, and vintners learned to tame the high tannins of Nebbiolo on their own. Plantings of Arneis withered until the grape variety became almost extinct. In the 1970s, pioneering producers such as Bruno Giacosa brought the wine back from obscurity. The revival of Arneis paralleled a movement of “grape archaeology” occurring in the south of Italy, where wineries such as Mastroberardino were bringing back other ancient varieties such as Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avelino.
Arneis is bright and crisp, with good acidity and a firm structure. While totally dry, the aromatic nose can exude aromas of almonds, apricots and peaches. It is a perfect aperitivo, and also provides an excellent match for finger foods, pasta, fish, shellfish, and white meats in lighter sauces.
Because of his pioneering work in the region, Bruno Giacosa’s Arneis ($28) is usually regarded as the gold standard. The wine has a deep mineral backbone, and is suitable for carrying through a meal as well as starting one. The version from Vietti ($22) tends to be more fruit-forward, and the one from Ceretto ($20) leans toward a lighter and elegant style. Domestic producers have included Seghesio, Viansa and Wild Horse. All are perfectly suited to the Florida climate and lifestyle, as well as pairing seamlessly with local seafood.