30 Second Wine Advisor: Roero Arneis - a white that tastes red

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Roero Arneis - a white that tastes red

The late, great British wine writer Harry Waugh famously declared that "it is a wine's duty to be red," and this is an axiom that many wine enthusiasts avidly embrace.

It's easy to understand this preference, too, and I admit that on any given day I'm likely to choose a red wine myself. Red wines tend to be robust, ripe, complex and interesting, filled with the anthocyanins and free radicals that purportedly give red wine in moderation its heart-healthy power to improve our blood chemistry and overall fitness.

But with all respect to Harry - and to my dear bride, who actively evangelizes his red-wine gospel - plenty of white wines easily meet those criteria too. I'm all about diversity, in life as in wine, and today I'd like to celebrate this approach by holding up a glass of Malvirà 2010 Roero Arneis, a Northern Italian white wine that even my wife happily declared "one of the reddest white wines I've tasted."

I can't disagree, although I'm prepared to accept it as an exceptional white wine on its own merits. Arneis ("Ahr-NASE") is a quality white grape grown in the Roero {"Roe-EH-roe") region of Piemonte, Italy's northwestern corner. In this region best known for its magesterial, ageworthy reds Barolo and Barbaresco, it might not be surprising that even the better whites offer something we can get our teeth into.

The name Arneis means 'little rascal' in the Piemontese dialect, I'm told, not because it makes people mean but because it can be hard to grow. As a result, it got little respect for centuries, but has enjoyed a revival in modern times. It makes a wine that brings together opposites, offering big, in-your-face aromatics and a textured, full body in a wine that's nevertheless dry and crisp and, at the end, elegant.

Malvirà 2010 Roero Arneis is part of the import portfolio of the noteworthy Italian producer Giorgio Rivetti of La Spinetta, best known for his pricey and sought-after Piemontese reds. This wine is fairly priced at $19.99 in my local shops, but you may be able to find it for a few dollars less. It's a good benchmark for Roero Arneis, with appealing aromas of pears, honey and almond, and hints of butterscotch and stony minerality in a dry, full-bodied and very interesting wine. And yes, it is a white. Really. My tasting notes are below.

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Today's Tasting Report

Malvirà 2010 Roero Arneis ($19.99)


Clear light gold, rich color. Ripe pears, honey and almond and a little hint of butterscotch, but in spite of those dessert-y sounding descriptors, it's not sweet, or only the lightest touch of sweetness well balanced by crisp, fresh acidity with 13% alcohol in a rich, full-bodied flavor that carries a hint of stony minerality in the background. Very interesting wine with a fine balance of flavor and complexity to woo the fancy even of those who usually prefer a red wine. U.S. importer: Indigenous Selections LLC, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (Nov. 11, 2012)

FOOD MATCH: Perfect with a Tortilla Espanola and should work as well with a frittata or omelet. Well suited, too, with richer seafood and oily fish.

WHEN TO DRINK: Its good combination of fruit, acidity and full body will carry it through a few years at good cellar conditions, and it might be interesting to see where it goes with cellar time. Still, it's drinking well now, and any effort to hold it more than a year or two should be considered experimental.

VALUE: I can justify this $20 retail for a white of this quality, but note that Wine-Searcher.com reports a $16 median at U.S. vendors. It may pay to shop around or order online if your local shops can't match this price.

Roero Arneis = "Roe-EH-roe Ahr-NASE"

The Malvirà Website is available in English, Italian, French, German and Japanese. This link goes to the English home page; click the links at upper right to choose another language. The importer offers this good fact sheet in English about Malvirà on its stylish Web pages. If you'd like to geek out, here is a highly detailed Malvirà Roero Arneis tech sheet.

Locate vendors and check prices for Malvirà Roero Arneis on Wine-Searcher.com. To learn more about Roero Arneis and find links to vendors for 99 of its producers, check this Wine-Searcher.com page.

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