2018 Giovanni Almondo Roero Arneis Bricco delle Ciliegie
‘Tis the season. The weather is warm (soon…..we promise!) and nothing tastes better than something crisp, snappy and cold. If it happens to be the latest vintage of one of Italy’s most distinguished whites, well, so much the better. The wine really needs no introduction here but, in case you are one of the few who have yet to discover the joys of this delicious Roero Arneis, here is a word of explanation. The vineyard is named ‘Hilltop of Cherries’ as this broad, quite steep hill was, until some seventy five years ago, an expansive cherry orchard. The vines that now dot the hill were planted in the nineteen eighties, one of the first new plantings of Arneis since the war, and the vine rows are still punctuated by some really old, really gnarly cherry trees. To see this patchwork of vineyards and trees in the spring, when the cherries are in bloom, makes the trip out to this distant part of the Roero, across the Tanaro River from Alba, an absolute pilgrimage.
The genial but driven Domenico Almondo, whose father Giovanni planted Bricco Ciliegie, is one of Arneis’ best-known champions now, producing around 55,000 bottles total of two distinctly different cuvees. Besides a simpler, all stainless-fermented cuvee, there is the wine sourced from the Bricco. Domenico ferments most of the fruit in steel under gas where it sits on its lees for six months, while a second portion is fermented in new barriques that add richness, texture and spice to the finished wine. Bottling the finished cuvee under pressure typically gives the wine a bit of bubbly prickle when it’s young but, after a few months, that gives way to Arneis’ gorgeous, very focused green almond-y, Granny Smith apple and wintergreen-like flavors. The secret is in the texture. The barrel fermented portion adds weight and palate appeal to a grape than can be very delicate, even brittle. It works perfectly and the 2018 is drinking great!
Almondo’s Bricco Ciliegie has a major following here and we pour it by the glass whenever we have it. It has become the house wine for many Italian white fans, including yours truly, who loves it all by itself or with salads, vegetables, fresh water fish and any kind of smoked fish. With pasta and a Genovese style pesto, it’s a natural. And it keeps! Buy enough to keep for a few years because it really does develop nicely. But we know that temps could be spiking any time now right now, and it’s important to be prepared!