Cantina San Silvestro Roero Arneis

Arneis is one of those grapes that you don’t hear too much about. It’s grown almost entirely in the Piedmont region of Italy where red grapes Barbera and Nebbiolo steal the spotlight. It’s a great variety though with crisp acidity, bright fruit, and subtle white flower notes. It’s so fragrant that there’s an old story that it was only planted in Piedmont to detract the birds away from the more valuable Nebbiolo grapes. I’m sort of doubtful that this is true but it makes for a good story.

Scraping the lees out of a tank. Doesn’t look tasty, but it makes great wine!

What is true though, is that these are great values. If you can find a solid producer, they’re some of the best values around. This particular bottle comes from the Sartirano family, who have made wine for generations. This wine is fermented entirely in stainless steel which keeps it pure and fresh. However, it develops complexity from the extended maturation on lees.

What is lees you ask? It’s actually the dead (maybe”spent” a better word) yeast cells. These yeast cells are super important in a lot of styles of wine from Muscadet to Champagne. For one thing, they tend to add a richness mid-palate without making the wine “fat” or “overblown”. They also break down into natural preservatives which will help facilitate aging. Super high acidity grapes like Arnies need the lees aging to give balance.