Two Winning Wines from Italy

by artfuldiner on May 16, 2022

in Artful Diner Mini Review, Breaking News, Opinion, Wine, Wining and Dining

Arneis 20202020 Almondo Roero Arneis Bricco delle Ciliegie: Roero is a small DOCG-qualified (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) viticultural area in the northeast corner of the province of Cuneo in the Piedmont region of northwest Italy. Together with Monferatto and Langhe, this trio of vineyards form a UNESCO-ranked World Heritage Site. The designation’s name is steeped in local history, as “Roero” refers to a family of bankers who were very influential in the area during the Middle Ages.

There are approximately 2,861.48 acres of vineyards in Roero DOCG, producing 6.6 million bottles of wine per annum. Roero is known for its elegant Nebbiolo red wines, which, because of its sandy soil, are less tannic and more approachable (and significantly less expensive) than its neighboring Barolo.

The area’s real claim to fame, however, is Arneis, a fragrant pear-perfumed white wine grape that is responsible for 77% of the vineyards’ plantings. Indigenous to Roero, Arneis has been cultivated here since the 1400s. The varietal nearly became extinct after World War II, as it only remained in three vineyards. Even then, it was simply used to attract insects away from the more important Nebbiolo. However, when tastes began to drift away from fuller-bodied over-oaked chardonnays and the like, Arneis experienced a renaissance and has recently been rediscovered by a variety of white wine lovers, especially in the United States.

For generations, the Almondo family has carefully tended the vines of Arneis. The old vines of the single vineyard, Bricco delle Ciliegie, are rooted in the sand that was once an old ocean bed. Building upon the legacy of his talented father, Giovanni, Domenico Almondo, has taken this small family winery to such new heights that he is now considered one of the best winemakers in Italy.

I have tasted numerous vintages of Almondo Roero Arneis Bricco delle Ciliegie, but the 2020 is truly special… and wine writer Antonio Galloni of Vinous, who bestowed 91points (100-point scale) agrees: “The 2020 Roero Arneis Bricco delle Ciliegie is layered and creamy, yet retains terrific freshness throughout. Pear, ginger, white flowers and a hint of spice lend notable character to this inviting, compelling Arneis, Bricco delle Ciliegie is one of the great whites of Italy.”

The major problem with Almondo’s wines is that the quantities are just too small to satisfy the demand each year. Once the Michelin-starred restaurants of Rome and Paris have received their share, only a miniscule amount of wine is imported; and the entire United States allocation is gobbled up in one big hurry. Right now, according to Nicholas Wines, Red Bank, New Jersey, the count and the amount are down to 25 cases anywhere. Nicholas is currently offering this extraordinary vintage at $26. 50 per bottle (plus shipping). The perfect wine for relaxed summer quaffing.


Argiolas Costera 20182018 Argiolas Costera Cannonau di Sardegna: The wine region of the Italian island of Sardinia includes the vineyard area across the entire stretch of land, with approximately 98,842 acres cultivated. Sardinia is located off the west coast of Italy and is the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea after Sicily.

Cannonau is the most important grape variety of the island for red wine production. The resulting deeply-colored, full bodied wines are characterized by a balanced alcohol level and equally balanced acidity & tannins combined with beautiful fruit flavors and notes of peppery spice. It may be produced as a single varietal wine or blended with other varieties to add body and fruit without tannins.

Until recently, it was thought that Cannonau was just the Sardinian name for Grenache, which originated in the region of Aragon in northern Spain and was brought to Sardinia when the Aragonese conquered the island in the early 14th century. The Sardinians, of course, never quite believed this story; and their doubts piqued the interest of scientists at the University of Pennsylvania. They formed a partnership, which subsequently led to the excavation of archaeological sites in Borore, Sardinia, in 2002. There they discovered hundreds of preserved grape seeds dating back some 3,200 years. DNA testing at U of P laboratories conclusively proved that these grape seeds were, indeed, the remnants of Cannonau, were indigenous to Sardinia, and distinct from modern-day Grenache.

Argiolas is the foremost wine estate on the island of Sardinia, producing exceptional wines from native varietals.  Antonio Argiolas, who died in 2009 at the age of 102, inherited seven acres of vines from his father in 1938 and was the first on the island to convert to modern viticulture to pursue quality over quantity. His sons, Franco and Giuseppe, replanted the vineyards in the 1980s with the goal of reducing yields and focusing exclusively on Sardinian grapes. The Argiolas estate consists of 692 acres of vineyards, divided across a number of different estates to the north and east of the city of Cagliari. The winery currently produces 2.2 million bottles each year.

The estate’s flagship wine is the Turriga Rosso Isola dei Nuraghi. The highly-rated 2016 – 97 points from wine critic James Suckling; 93 points from Vinous – for example, is a blend of 85% Cannonau, 5% Carignano, 5% Bovale Sardo, and 5% Malvasia Nera and is aged for 18 to 24 months in new French oak barriques and an additional year in bottle. It’s a lovely, polished wine, dense and powerful. It will also put a $75.00 – $90.00 dent in your wallet, depending upon your place of purchase.

On the other hand, the 2018 Argiolas Costera Cannonau di Sardegna is an incredibly beautiful wine that is rich & intense, yet delightfully smooth and supple on the palate. My first sip elicited a totally unexpected “Wow!”… as did the price, a paltry $13.99 at your local PA State Store. Bargains like this do not come along every day. A fabulous wine. Get it while it’s hot!

 Bon Appétit!

Be Safe & Stay Well


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