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Arneis is a white Italian wine grape variety originating from Piedmont, Italy. It is most commonly found in the hills of the Roero, northwest of Alba, where it is part of the white Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) wines of Roero. It can also be used to produce DOC wines in Langhe.[1] Arneis (literally: little rascal, in Piemontese) is so called because it is regarded as a somewhat difficult variety to grow. It is a crisp and floral varietal, and has been grown for centuries in the region. The white wines made from the Arneis grape tend to be dry and full body with notes of pears and apricots.[2]
Wine historians disagree on how long Arneis has been growing in the Piedmont region and under what name. A potential root of the name Arneis in the Piemontese dialect, renesi, makes an appearance in the description of several different grape varieties in the 15th century. Some historians believe that Arneis maybe the Ranaysii grape that was documented in 1432 growing in the province of Torino around the village of Chieri. Around Canale in the province of Cuneo a Reneysium grape was documented in 1478. The first usage of the name Arneis appears in Italian ampelographer Count Giuseppe di Rovasenda's 1877 text where the grape was described as already being well established in Piedmont.[3]
Despite sharing several similar synonyms, Arneis has no genetic relationship to the notable Piedmontese red wine grape Nebbiolo but the two grapes do share a close historic relationship. For centuries the white Arneis grape was used to soften the tannins and harshness of Nebbiolo grape in the wines of the Barolo region, hence the common synonym of Niebblo bianco, Barolo bianco or "white Barolo".[4] In the vineyard, Arneis was often planted with Nebbiolo in a field blend with the aim of having the sweet scent of ripe Arneis berries attract birds and keep them away from the more valuable Nebbiolo clusters.[3]
In the 20th century, as Barolo producers begun focusing on 100% varietal Nebbiolo, acreage steadily declined almost to the point where the variety was on the verge of extinction. By the 1970s, only two producers were making any kind of Arneis, Bruno Giacosa and Vietti.[3] The 1980s saw a renaissance in interest for white Piedmont wines and plantings began to increase. By 2000, there were 745 hectares (1,840 acres).[3] By 2006 the number of plantings of Arneis declined to around 610 hectares (1,500 acres) nearly all found in the Roero and Langhe region of Piedmont.[1]