Nebbiolo and Arneis of Roero DOCG of Piedmont, Italy: Why They’re in My Glass

Piedmont ranks the first in having the most number of DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) wines in Italy, which pertains to the excellence of quality and authentic viniculture representative of the region. A wine with this denomination signifies a particular qualitative value that is cultivated and produced from specific grapes cultivated in designated viticultural areas. Piedmont can be internationally known for its most popular wines like Barolo and Barbaresco but out of the many other denominations in the area, Roero, also made with Nebbiolo grapes, has a completely different identity with its distinguishing aromatic characteristics which are given by geographical and climatic conditions, as well as vinification techniques.

The geographical position and the composition of the soil distinguishes Roero from its counterpart as Roero is located on the left bank of the Tanaro River while Barolo and Barbaresco are on the right. The area of the left side is varied, coexisting with fruit orchards, woods and vegetable gardens which signifies a richness in biodiversity as opposed to the more monocultural landscape on the right side of the river, where vineyards are more prevalent. Dating back from 130 million years ago, the soils in Roero were formed by sedimentation of detritus of various lithological origins which were transported by marine currents that had eroded the surrounding mountains which have structured in layers. It was from two to three million years ago that the hills of Roero were formed due to the emersion from the sea and this push led to the overlapping of the various types of soil in the area.

The soils of Roero are mainly of marl with a predominant presence of sandstone of marine origin, a good content of limestone, clay and sand which makes the soil loose and confers softness and great permeability. The marine origin of the soils makes them poor in organic matter but rich in mineral salts. From a climatic point of view, Roero is considered a semi-arid area which leaves the hills almost devoid of water. Whereas the Maritime Alps provide significant diurnal temperature variations between day and night. This large gap of high temperatures at daytime and low temperatures at night time which affect the ripening of the grapes in a more balanced way. Warmer daytime temperatures fosters sugar development while cool nights can help reserve aromas and acidit

Roero DOCG
The appellation of Roero DOCG, recognized in 2005, is reserved for Roero Arneis, Roero Arneis Riserva and Roero Arneis Spumante which are both made from 100% Arneis grapes or 95% in some cases with the remaining 5% from non-aromatic white grapes like Favorita (Vermentino in local dialect) or Chardonnay which are grown in the same area. The red versions of the appellation are Roero and Roero Riserva which are both made with 100% Nebbiolo grapes or at least 95% with the remaining 5% from non-aromatic red grapes like Barbera cultivated in the same area. Although nowadays, a lot of the wineries produce the Roero wines solely with Nebbiolo or Arneis grapes.

Menzioni Geografiche Aggiuntive (MGA) or Additional Geographic Mentions
As of the year 2017, after eight years of research and work, the new regulations of the DOCG include 135 newly-recognized Menzioni Geografiche Aggiuntive (MGA) or Additional Geographic Mentions. It identifies specific important wine growing areas like a group of vineyards that have had a long-standing reputation for producing high quality wines, elevating them to the status of real crus. These new MGA names are reflected in the wine labels to identify that those certain bottle comes from a recognized cru for its exceptional quality.

Arneis
Arneis is an autocthonous grape variety of Piedmont that has been cultivated for centuries. However, the first documented mention of this grape was only between the end of the 15th and the beginning of the 16th centuries in the forms of Reneysium and Ornesium in reference to a vineyard called Moscatelli et Renexij (in current times known as Canalese Renesio) where the grape was cultivated. The name Arneis only appeared at the beginning of the 1800s in the accounting records and referred to as “white Arneis”. Arneis is known to have a number of synonyms, the most popular being Bianchetto, Barolo bianco and Nebbiolo bianco. Historically, in the vineyards, Arneis was often planted with the Nebbiolo vines with the aim of using the sweet scent of the ripe Arneis berries in attracting the birds and distract them from the more valuable late-ripening Nebbiolo clusters. Also, the Arneis grapes were previously used to soften the tannins and the harshness of the Nebbiolo grapes in the production of the Barolo wines, hence the name Barolo bianco and Nebbiolo bianco. But in the 1970s, its cultivation in the hills of Roero has gained momentum when producers realized its great potentiality as an excellent white wine with pleasant drinkability.

Roero Arneis is generally a straw yellow dry white wine notable for its crisp fruity aromas of pears and apricots with white flowers like jasmine and fresh herb accents, minerals and sometimes an aftertaste of green almonds. When the four-month vinification process is simple and immediate, the color is light straw yellow color with some green highlights and focused on its varietal characteristics and freshness. Whereas if the wine went through a short maceration with the skin, aged on lees or went through a brief passage in oak barrels spending at least 16 months in the cellar, the color turns more towards medium golden yellow, full-bodied, with the development of more complexities in its characteristics like honey, exotic fruits, and orange blossoms. With this ageing process, the wine gains the possibility for a good ageing potential for years.

Nebbiolo
Nebbiolo is another autochthounous grape of Piedmont which was first written about at the end of the 13th century. Records dating back from the 17th century show that there has been an active production of wines made with these grapes in varied forms from dry to sweet wines. Over the centuries it became the most appreciated red grape variety in the area and it has maintained its dominant presence in the vineyards, exclusively in the hilly side where it gets the best exposition to the sun. The predominantly sandy soils in the Roero give the wines an elegant structure with soft tannins giving the Roero more readiness in its drinkability without compromising the characteristics that make it suitable for ageing. The ageing for red Roero should spend a minimum of 20 months in the cellar which includes 6 months in oak barrels while for the Riserva, the minimum time is 32 months with 6 months in oak barrels. However, most winemakers keep their wines longer in the ageing process.

Why Drink Roero DOCG?
The question that often pops up is what’s the difference between the world-famous right bank wines, Barolo and Barbaresco with its left bank counterpart, the Roero. Differences in geographical, climatic and vinification factors set these wines apart. All three wines use 100% Nebbiolo grapes for their production, Roero has the flexibility of using a minimum of 95% less, blended with other varieties (but almost all producers use 100% Nebbiolo nowadays) plus the ageing of Roero is also shorter than those of Barolo and Barbaresco. The sandy soils in Roero gives a typical Roero delicateness, mineral and fruity characteristics, elegant structure and soft tannins as compared to the deeper flavors and more tannic structure of the Barolo. The Roero doesn’t need to be aged for a long time to reach its full potential as a great wine because it can already be enjoyed starting from a younger age while the Barolo and Barbaresco blooms to their full maturity slowly over the years when cellared. So if you want to enjoy a bottle of excellent red wine of Nebbiolo from Piedmont without waiting for years to reach its apex and with a more approachable price range, Roero is the right choice. Its drinkability is enjoyed at a larger frame of time, between two to fifteen years.

Consorzio di Tutela Roero
Consorzio di Tutela Roero, the consortium of Roero vine growers and winemakers, that was founded in 2013 and headed by Francesco Monchiero, is responsible in protecting and promoting Roero DOCG, both white and red. It now represents 236 members, 155 of which are wineries and 81 are vine growers. The cornerstone of the consortium’s activities is the valorization of the Roero territory and its symbolic wine. With the transformation of the landscape, shaped by the presence of vineyards, it was included in the Unesco Heritage Cultural Landscapes in 2014 together with Langhe and Monferrato.

Virtual Wine Tasting 2021
With the unusual circumstances that the world is facing because of the pandemic, a virtual wine tasting is becoming the new normality in this challenging period. Nonetheless, the consortium was able to reach out to a number of us in the wine sector to taste twelve of their members’ wines and for the winemakers themselves to present their corresponding wines. There were 12 bottles of Roero Arneis, Roero and Roero Riserva from: Antica Cascina dei Conti di Roero, Nino Costa, Tibaldi, Cantine Povero, Pelassa, Monchiero Carbone, Matteo Correggia, Malabaila di Canale, Filippo Gallino, Cascina Val Del Prete, Carlo Chiesa, and Cà di Cairè.

Carlo Chiesa Quin Roero Arneis 2018
A family-run winery that was founded in the 1700s in the hills of the Roero, Carlo Chiesa is on its fifth generation. Carlo, Renato and Giuseppe are three of the ten sons to whom parents Agostino and Margherita have left three centuries of history dedicated to working the land. Together they directly follow each phase of the processing of the vineyards, the careful selection of the grapes, the careful vinification and marketing of the finished product. The land covers 9 hectares of vineyards that are cultivated in the traditional way and the typical wines of the area are produced in the cellars. The wine was fermented at low temperature with soft pressing, then aged in steel tanks for 6 months. The white wine presents a light straw yellow color with a moderately intense nose of peaches and delicate white flowers. The mouth is persistent, fruit-forward, has good acidity, ends with light bitterness which characterizes its minerality.

Monchiero Carbone Cecu d’la Biunda Roero Arneis DOCG 2019
The Monchiero Carbone winery is situated in a 19th century stately farmhouse in Canale, which hosts in its basement a large historical cellar that has been untouched for over two centuries. The winery is a result of the union of two families through the marriage of Marco Monchiero and Lucia Carbone, and the consequent merging of the vineyards inherited from both. The origins and the connections with winemaking are found in the past of both families that have deep roots in the area. The history of Monchiero Carbone began in the 1990s with Francesco Monchiero, son of Lucia and Marco, a nationally-renowned oenologist. Over the years the company has expanded, thanks to the enlargement of the winemaking cellar in 2004 and the acquisition of new vineyard which currently totals to 35 hectares. This light straw yellow Arneis has an intense nose which takes out its white floral aromas initially followed by crispy pear, peach and hints of fresh herbs. The acidity is pronounced in the mouth with the aftertaste of minerals lingering in the end.

Tibaldi Brico delle Passere Roero Arneis DOCG 2018
Sisters Monica and Daniela Tibaldi, both in the prime of their youth and with immense passion in winemaking, are behind the bottles of Tibaldi Winery. Having grown up and learning from their grandfather Tunin and father Stefano, who are both winemakers, both sisters evolved towards life dedicated to oenology. Monica studied Oenology while Daniela studied Business Management and together, the sisters follow the full production at Tibaldi from the fields to the cellars. Generation after generation, the land and tradition were passed on but Daniela and Monica have veered towards a modern method of winemaking as opposed to their previous generations’ techniques but without losing the customs and traditions. The wine was fermented with indigenous yeasts in steel tanks and aged on lees for 10 months to increase structure and aromatic complexity. The resulting wine has a straw yellow in color with an intense nose of floral aromas, crispy green pears and exotic fruits while its bright acidity is quite prominent in the mouth.

Nino Costa Sarun Roero Arneis DOCG 2019
In the town of Montà in Roero, Alessandro Costa works on the 11 hectares of the family-owned vineyards and makes wines represents a true expression of himself. After finishing his oenological studies in 2007 and gaining experience in France and the US, he took over the reins of the cellar of his father’s winery two years later by renewing some methods, wine refinements and the entire face of the company. He vinifies in steel to take out the varietal profile of the grapes. Six months in steel tanks with the lees gives this wine complexity and elegance. Light straw yellow in color with a moderately persistent fruity nose of crispy green pears, minerals and white flowers with the palate of pronounced acidity, sapidity and delicate floral and fruity sensations.

Tenuta Fratelli Povero Terre del Conte Roero Arneis DOCG 2020
Tracing its origins from 1837 and now on its fourth generation, the Povero Family continues to honor the generosity of their land. Tradition and knowledge has been handed down from one generation to the next which keep the name of the winery strong and committed to the land that they till as they transform its fruits into wine that best represents their territory. Their reality in winemaking is merging tradition and innovation between old and new generations. Soon, the name Tenuta Laramè will be coming out in the label and will be representing the highest line of the Cantine Povero. It lies in a 50-hectare single-body vineyard area where the soils are stratified and varied, and is certified organic. Alongside the vineyards are woodlands where a rich biodiversity of local flora and fauna thrive. The clay gives the body, the sands enrich the perfumes and the limestone grants the light minerality in the wines. Fermented in stainless steel tanks with selected yeasts and ageing on the lees for 2 – 3 months. Light straw yellow in color with green highlights, a persistent and pleasant nose of a field of yellow and white flowers, crispy green pears and apples with hints of almonds in the end. It has an equally pleasant palate that gives good acidity, sapidity and the varietal characteristics.

Filippo Gallino 4 Luglio Roero Arneis DOCG 2018
The Gallino Family comprised of Filippo, Maria and their children Gianni, Laura and Enrica work together in their vineyards and winery. The winemaking activities originated from Stefano Gallino, born in 1857, who was producing wines with Barbera and Nebbiolo, then to his sons Felice and Filippo who started the winery. It was with them that the winery started an active contribution to the growing quality of the wines in the area. In 1972, winery was among the first to bottle Arneis. The wine has been aged in stainless steel tanks for 10 – 12 months with a weekly batonnage. Light straw yellow with green highlights with an intense nose of minerals followed closely by field flowers, tropical and yellow stone fruits. In the mouth the minerality is pronounced with good acidity that has a persistent finish.

Cascina Val del Prete Brico Medica Roero DOCG 2017
It was in 1977 when Bartolomeo Roagna and his wife Carolina planted the first vineyards of Barbera and Nebbiolo in Val del Prete, the farm and land they purchased, along with some peach trees in the remaining flat land and raising of calves in the farm. The production was allocated to bulk wine and the sale of the grapes. Over the years, with Bartolomeo’s dedication and intuition, he expanded his property by buying neighboring lands that he cultivated for vines. With these newly-acquired land, he and his sons planted Arneis which was fast gaining its importance in Roero’s wine production. In 1995, his son Mario took the reins of the company and he chose the path to organic farming and to bottle the entire wine production focusing on the autochthonous grapes, Arneis, Barbera and Nebbiolo. His philosophy was to let the characteristics of the terroir speak through his wines. In 2010, his son Giovanni entered the family activities bringing with him a fresh angle in the production process of the wines. In 2013, the current 10 hectares of vineyards were certified organic. This wine was fermented with the skins for 30 days in cement tanks then aged in cement for 10 months, 4 months in used oak barrels, and another 6 months in the bottle. Ruby red with hints of garnet, the nose is intense, opens to a complexity of aromas of red berries, mature sour cherries, sweet dried spices, and dried rose and violet petals, and forest undergrowth. The palate is persistent with dried tea leaves, polished tannins and long mineral finish.

Malabaila Bric Volta Roero DOCG 2018
Lucrezia Carrega Malabaila comes from the 65th generation of the noble family of Malabaylas of Asti. The first foundations of the family in Roera dates back in 1270 along with the foundations of the Castle of Canale which the family still resides in. The year 1362 was a turning point for the activity towards winemaking when they purchased Castelleto, the land suitable for the cultivation of vine which is still in use for the cultivation of Nebbiolo for the Roero Riserva Castelleto. Between the 16th to 17th centuries, the wines of Malabaila were often requested in the courts of the Prince of Piedmont and Duke of Savoy. Today, the property currently lies on 22 hectares of vineyards planted along with hazelnut orchards rich in minerals and fossils in in sandy soils. The wine estate has totally eliminated the use of chemicals and has favored them with organic fertilization. The wines that Lucrezia produces have a fresher and softer style, with the aid of Alfredo Falletti who has worked in their cellar for thirty years. In the production of this wine, the grapes are obtained from 25-year old vines and maturation takes place in stainless steel tanks and tonneaux for 16 to 18 months. Bright ruby red towards garnet, with an intense and round nose, aromatic complexities of pronounced minerals, ripe red berries, eucalyptus with a mouth that gives fine-grained tannins, minerals, freshness, ripe dark fruits, mature plums and slight bitterness.

Matteo Correggia Val dei Preti Roero DOCG 2016
The winery was founded in 1985 when 23-year old Matteo Correggia inherited the farm and lands from his father. Back in those days, he was keen in taking the name of Roero around the world by going against the tide and focusing on quality and sustainable viticulture. He succeeded with Roche d’Ampsej, the first Roero denomination that went well internationally. He also joined the famous Barolo Boys, a group of Barolo wine producers who dramatically changed the Barolo wines with their technical innovations. However, Giovanni was the only young producer who belonged to the Roero side and although he shares their ideals of change, he moved forward with his own wine styles in enhancing wines obtained from the fossil-rich sandy soils and the fruit-forward Nebbiolos in his side of the river. Sadly, he died in 2001 but with the love and respect for his land, and constant search of innovation instilled in his wife, Ornella and two children, Giovanni and Brigitta, they continued his legacy in making wines that are worthy of being appreciated around the world. Currently holding 20 hectares of land, they produce wines characterized by elegance and sensorial complexities that represent the land of Roero. With this wine, the Nebbiolo grapes were obtained from a single vineyard, the Val dei Preti, macerated with the skin in stainless steel vats for 25 days, and aged in old barrique for 6 months and another 12 months in concrete. Bright ruby red towards garnet, intense, round and complex nose where very mature, red to dark fruits are prevalent like sour cherries and red currants, with notes of violet and hints of herbs. The mouth has pronounced acidity, fine-grained tannins, red berries, dried tea leaves and finishes with persistence.

Pelassa Antaniolo Roero Riserva DOCG 2016
The present Pelassa Winery started with Mario Pelassa in 1960 who was flanked by his wife Maria Teresa whose clients have always been concentrated on the northwestern part of Italy. When their sons Davide and Daniele took over in the year 2000, both men transformed it into a modern and dynamic company. Work was divided between Davide who tends to the 15 hectares of vineyards and Daniele who takes care of the cellar and marketing. With the red sand and gravel soil, the cultivation of grapes are concentrated to three native grapes best suitable for their terroir: Arneis, Barbera and Nebbiolo. This wine is highly acclaimed by wine critics for its great depth and linearity. It is obtained from Nebbiolo sub-varieties, Michet, Lampia and Rosè at an altitude of 330 masl. Traditional fermentation was used, the must was pumped over on a dèla-stafe as a way to improve the varietal aromas and extraction of color. After the malolactic fermentation, the wine is matured in Slavonian and French wooden casks and barrels with weekly topping up then aged French oak barrels for 18 months and another 12 months in the bottle. Vibrant ruby to garnet red color with an intensity in the nose. White pepper is distinguishable with mature red berries, sour cherries, blueberries and plums. The mouth has pronounced red berries, dried tea leaves, freshness, minerals, polished tannins and long finish. A great wine that depicts well the Nebbiolo of Roero, enjoyable now and much more years to come.

Antica Cascina dei Conti di Roero Vigna Sant’Anna Roero Riserva DOCG 2016
“Our idea of viticulture is summed up in one word: authenticity.” Words from Daniela Olivero and Luigi Roagna, husband and wife behind the wine estate, with regards to their philosophy from the vineyards to the cellar and most especially to their lives. The story of the Antica Cascina dei Conti di Roero started with the purchase of the estate by Daniela’s family in 1957. From being a traditional farm of growing crops and raising cattle, they decided to focus on the grape vines. The turning point came in the 1970s when Daniela’s parents converted the company exclusively to producing wines with grapes cultivated from their own land. The first commercial bottling of their wines were in the 1980s and in 1995, the 8-hectare property was passed on to Daniela and her husband Luigi. Currently at 13 hectares now, they concentrate in cultivating native grapes: Nebbiolo, Arneis, Favorita and Barbera, and promoting eco-friendly and sustainable viticulture. The grapes where this wine is obtained from come from 60-year old vineyards on the top of the Sant’Anna hill, an MGA. The maceration with skins were at 40 days with no added yeast. Ageing was in 30 hL French oak barrels for 24 months. This wine with a bright ruby red and garnet red highlights has an intense and interesting nose of dark berries, mature plums, dried spices, earthy and ethereal tones while the mouth has high tannins, freshness, minerals as the fruit and floral notes linger.

Cà di Cairè Roero Riserva DOCG 2015
Emanuele Rolfo is a wine producer from Montà, a small area of Piedmont in the northern part of the Tanaro River. Cà di Cairè is the family name of his maternal side that has been cultivating vines since 1900s and producing bulk wines for the consumption of the family and clients from the vicinity. He is the third generation in the family who has followed his roots of winemaking, having grown up in full immersion in the vineyards and the cellars. Today, they focus on cultivating the native grapes of Piedmont: Nebbiolo, Barbera and Arneis, in their 6-hectare property which has diverse soil compositions from sands to clay and to gravel.The area, as a whole, with the prevalence of sandy soils rich in fossils, obtains fragrance, while intensity in red wines and good balance are obtained from the clayey and mixed gravel soils. The philosophy of Emanuele is to express the territory in his wines where traditions remain. This wine was produced from grapes cultivated in soil composed of clay and silt. Fermentation is from 28 to 30 days with selected yeasts, then after malolactic fermentation, the wine remained in 25 hL oak barrels between 12 to 14 months. Bright ruby red to garnet red in color, moderately intense nose of red berries with spices and light floral hints. The mouth has smooth tannins, balanced and persistent.

Conosorzio di Tutela Roero
Website: https://www.consorziodelroero.it/

Carlo Chiesa
Website: https://www.vinichiesa.it/

Monchiero Carbone

Website: https://www.monchierocarbone.com/en/

Tibaldi
Website: https://www.cantinatibaldi.com/

Nino Costa
Website: https://ninocostawines.com/

Tenuta Fratelli Povero
Website: https://cantinepovero.com/

Filippo Gallino
Website: http://www.filippogallino.com/

Cascina Val del Prete
Website: https://valdelprete.com

Malabaila
Website: https://www.malabaila.com/

Matteo Correggia
Website: http://www.matteocorreggia.com/

Pelassa
Website: https://www.pelassa.com/it/

Antica Cascina dei Conti di Roero
Website: https://anticacascinacontidiroero.it/

Cà di Cairè Azienda Agricola
Website: http://www.emanuelerolfo.it/