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Auckland, North Island, New Zealand
Wine tour operator, wine writer and lapsed physiotherapist. "Nature abhors a vacuum. I personally hate dusting."


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

ARNEIS - The groovy Italian white

Arneis – Italy’s Groovy White Grape

By Phil Parker

New Zealand wine makers are pretty adventurous lot, especially the younger ones who are still in their 30s and 40s.  Many of them have trained in winemaking at either Charles Sturt University in Adelaide or Roseworthy College in South Australia, and from there many went on to do vintages overseas in Australia, South Africa and France.  So it’s not surprising that they have been open to trying out new grape varieties in New Zealand.

Arneis is one of these varieties. (And I am reliably informed by my Bella Italiana pal Barbara Raffellini, that the correct Italian pronunciation is Are-Nace).
The Arneis grape is indigenous to Piemonte in Northwest Italy. Its name means ‘Little Rascal’ in the local dialect – a reflection of just how difficult this grape is to grow and vinify.  A lot of NZ producers use the Rascal analogy on their Arneis labels. Flavour profile is a bit hard to nail – but definitely citrus, grapefruit, stone fruit and marmalade.  Winemaker Simon Nunns and the Coopers Creek team pioneered Arneis in NZ a few years back but now some of the other young guns are giving it a go.
Two recent examples came my way recently – both from Villa Maria’s Hawkes Bay vineyards, and both made by Nick Picone, their senior Auckland winemaker.
Nick is responsible for overseeing the production of Villa Maria's North Island wines including coordinating harvest, formulating wine styles, and assembling blends to tie in with the company's busy bottling programme. He has been with the Villa Maria Group for thirteen years, beginning as a teenager at Esk Valley in Hawkes Bay. In 2006 he spent six months in the UK with Villa Maria's international distributor, followed by a vintage at G.D. Vajra in Barolo, Italy.
Both these wines are quite dry, mineral and subtle – but they opened up after 15 minutes or so.

Villa Maria Private Bin Hawkes Bay Arneis 2011  $21.99
Not much in the way of aroma – but a whiff of citrus and orange blossom.
Some stone fruit herbaceousness and quince on the palate with a short finish.

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Hawkes Bay Arneis 2011  $23.99
A bit more going on here – and as I said, it opened up on the nose and palate after a while. Honeysuckle and citrus aromas, some dried apricot and quince flavours with a dry and mineral, yet lengthy finish

Phil Parker is a wine writer and operates Fine Wine Tours in Auckland.

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