Thursday, June 24, 2010

One Minerally Little Rascal

During my recent trip to Piemonte, I spent a lovely Sunday afternoon with three generations of the Almondo family at their estate in Montà d'Alba, at the heart of the Roero. (Full details to come somewhere further down the pipeline.)

One of the revelations of that visit was the opportunity to drink one of the Almondo's examples of Roero Arneis with some bottle age. There was a 2005 that, regrettably, showed a very subtle trace of TCA-taint but in which fresh fruit and structure could still be detected. Putting that bottle aside, then realizing upon a return trip to the family cellar that there were few if any bottles of it left, a 2007 emerged, was uncorked and proved to be absolutely vibrant.

Obviously, we're not talking about anything crazy old here. Arneis, though, is one of those varieties where common wisdom dictates that you should always look for the freshest possible bottle from the youngest possible of current vintages. For Almondo, at the moment, that would be 2009. But here were two bottles at two+ and four+ years of age: one that showed great and one, in the unlucky case, that seemed like it would have showed great. A perfect example of how a talented farmer and producer, with solid terroir, can rise above the norm. I took that example as inspiration to partake of a bottle earlier this week.

Roero Arneis "Bricco delle Ciliegie," Giovanni Almondo 2008
$25. 13% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Petit Pois, Moorestown, NJ.
The most mineral intense white I've had in quite some time. And no, I'm not suddenly sneaking a Muscadet, a Saar Riesling, a Savennières or Chablis into a post about Piedmont. I'm talking about Giovanni and Domenico Almondo's Roero Arneis from the single vineyard called "Bricco delle Ciliegie" (hillside of the cherries).

Funny I should list all those names, though, because on the nose this Arneis was quite reminiscent of good Muscadet — a little leesy, very mineral and delectably saline. Yes, I know salt in and of itself has no aroma, but this was definitely and distinctly salty. Margarita with lime salty, and mouthwateringly tasty. With food, its inner marrow emerged, as did a clearer glimpse of its delicate pear and apple fruitiness. Three or four days later, what was left in the bottle had taken on greater fruit, rounder texture, a kind of bitter lemon finish. Less salty but still distinctly mineral and refreshing.

The 2008 may be tough to come by at this point but the 2009 should be reasonably widely available. Grab a bottle or three should the above detail grab you (or check out the Almondo props from Old World Joe should you need further convincing). And don't be afraid to hold onto some for a wee while. I'm glad I did.


Joe Manekin said...

Hey I enjoyed this post, David. My tasting group introduction to Almondo's arneis certainly had me thinking that his wines could age a bit. It's good to hear that your experience with this wine, with a big of bottle age, has been positive.

David McDuff said...

I was pleased with the discovery, Joe, and I must admit, felt a little guilty when I found that Domenico had opened his last bottle of the '05 for me. Definitely a bummer that it was corked.

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