In the fall of 1975, during his third trip across Italy tasting and researching material for his celebrated television series, “Vino al Vino,” pioneering food and wine writer Mario Soldati happened upon a relatively unknown “producer and ager of wines” in the village of Neive.
The winemaker in this case was Bruno Giacosa, today considered to be one of the greatest producers of Barolo and Barbaresco of all time.
But many will be surprised to learn that the wine that Soldati was most excited about wasn’t a Barbaresco Santo Stefano or Asili, nor a Barolo Falletto Vigna Le Rocche. Instead, it was Giacosa’s Arneis.
When a bottle of 2018 Giacosa Roero Arneis found its way to our dinner table the other night (thanks to my generous friends at Folio Fine Wine Partners), I was reminded of Soldati’s notes from his notes from the trip (originally published in Italy by Mondadori in 1977).
The following is an excerpted translation. I hope you enjoy it as much as Tracie and I enjoyed the wine.
I don’t remember how it happened one early morning. But as soon as we arrived at the Albergo Reale, I discovered that in Neive, a village that lies between Asti and Alba, winemaker Bruno Giacosa, “producer and ager of wines,” had recently begun to make Arnèis [sic]…
In this moment, as I write, I have a bottle of Arnèis before me, many months now after my visit. It somehow reminds me of the magical surprise that I felt when I first walked up the stairs to the first floor of the small country house where Bruno Giacosa lives, vinifies, and ages his wines. I saw that bottle, all by itself, on a long marble table…
[It was] the 1974 Arnèis, 12 percent alcohol.
Intensely aromatic, but with extreme garb. Not fruity but a floral, pleasantly bitter note, reminiscent of geranium. It reappears on the palate and immediately impresses me. The floral bouquet naturally reminds me of Gradnik’s Pinot Girigio from Collio or Ghersi’s Vermentino. But this wine has a big advantage: lower alcohol. It’s a big advantage because you can drink more of it and you can drink it more often, and not just with appetizers.
It’s a wine you never tire of. If I could, of the 7,500 bottles he makes, I would order 365 bottles each year. My wife and my son agree with me.
Excerpted from the chapter “Nelle Provincie di Cuneo, Asti, e Alessandria” (“Terzo Viaggio. Autunno 1975), Vino al Vino, Mondadori, 1977. Translation mine.