2021 Agricola Brandini, Langhe Arneis ‘Le Margherite’ Piedmonte White, Italy.
The impressive Brandini Arneis by the Bagnasco sisters, Serena and Giovanna, is bright and crisply focused, but with lingering length and expanding textural quality, making for a sublime varietal wine that shows off the best character of this native Piedmonte grape, that not too long ago almost went extinct before making an astonishing comeback. Local legends, Giacosa and Vietti were leaders in the Arneis revival and still craft fine versions of this grape, but many other producers are now doing fabulous things with Arneis, and I think Brandini’s is one of the best I’ve had in recent years. This vintage, which impresses me, has fresh intensity with lemon/lime, white peach and melon fruits along with almond, chalky stones, star anise and a faint herbal element in a fine tuned dry white wine with a salty zip on the finish, making it excellent with sea food and or creamy cheeses. A few sips in and things fill out and you get the sense of body, but without weight, and it is hard not to pour another glass and lean back in complete bliss of your choice in wine here.
The excellent draining calcareous sandy soils are, as the Brandini’s note, part of what part of the puzzle that allows their Arneis to do so well and showcase its best attributes, saying the grape actually struggles in heavy clay soils. So much attention is payed to small yields and organic methods in the vines, while in the cellar Brandini is intent on purity of form and terroir transmission, especially on the Arneis, which is fermented and aged exclusively in stainless steel. The perfectly ripened golden Arneis berries are whole cluster pressed and fermented with spontaneous yeasts with temperature control, starting cool, warmed slightly to finish primary and chilled down to prevent Malo (malolactic conversion) from happening, all to preserve vitality and verve in the wine. After that non malolactic fermentation, the Arneis is kept cold and the lees are stirred a few times, as they say, to bring a little more texture to the body and highlight the floral elements, then the wine is gently fined and filtered just prior to its bottling. I have been greatly, as mentioned, impressed by all these Brandini wines since meeting Giovanna at the San Francisco Slow Wine show almost two years ago now, especially their Barolo offerings, this Arneis and the latest Dolcetto.
($28 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive