Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Cascina Chicco Arcass: WBW #54

Some excellent wines come from the Piedmont region of Italy and I have previously reviewed numerous wines from this area. Most recently, I met the wine makers from the Cascina Roera winery in Piedmont. On my list of Top Ten Wines Under $15 of 2008, the 2004 Le Piane La Maggiorina from Piedmont made the list. And on my Top Ten Wines Over $15 of 2008, you can find the 2007 G.D. Vajra Moscato D'Asti from Piedmont.

As the theme for Wine Blogging Wednesday #54 was A Passion for Piedmont, I had to decide what Piedmont wine to review. David of McDuff's Food & Wine Trail had chosen an easy, but delicious, theme but I wanted to review something more unusual. How about a late harvest Arneis?
The NV Cascina Chicco Arcass is a very interesting and unique dessert wine. Cascina Chicco winery is located in the heart of the DOCG of Roero. The winery has about 20 hectares of vineyards, all of which are on hills. The Arcass is made from 100% Arneis.

Arneis, also known as Bianchetta or Nebbiolo Bianco, is indigenous to the Roera region of Piedmont and records of the grape extend back to the 15th century. The word "Arneis" translate as "a difficult or demanding person" in Piemontese, probably referring to the fact that it can be a difficult grape to grow. Traditionally, Arneis was sometimes blended with Nebbiolo to add perfume and soften its tannins.

Arneis was largely ignored for many years, and even might have vanished except it saw a revival in popularity in the early 1970s. Part of the reason for the revival was that there was an increasing popularity in white wines in the 1980s. Production of Arneis in Roero has been steadily increasing. Arneis is also now grown in Sardinia, Oregon, California, and Australia.

Arneis has medium-small berries which are golden-green in color and elliptical in shape. It can be similar to Viognier in weight and Pinot Blanc in flavors and aromas. The flavor and aroma of Arneis may have pears, peaches, almond, vanilla and floral notes. It may sometimes have low acidity so is usually best within a year of its vintage.

The Arcass is a late harvest wine done in the passito-style where the grapes are dried for several months before pressing. The wine comes in half-bottles, 375ml bottle, and costs in the mid to high $40s. It has an alcohol content of 12.5%. The name of the wine, "Arcass," is "a reference to one of the most elegant and powerful athletic gestures displayed in the game of "Balon", the most traditional sport of the Roero hills. The "Arcass" expresses the untamed farming pride, which is able to overcome any kind of difficulty."

I found the Arcass to have a fine amber color with a compelling nose of apricots, citrus, honey and dried fruit. It is a full bodied wine with intense and complex flavors, being sweet without being cloying. It was a wow wine, very unique in its flavor profile and with a lengthy, satisfying finish. If this is the type of desert wine that Arneis can produce, then more producers should be making it. This dessert wine would pair with many different types of desserts, especially if there is fruit involved. I highly recommend this wine.

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