All the years that I was in retail, I enjoyed the customer relationships and I think that is why I really like my local wine shop The Fine Wine Source. When I walk in, they all know me by name and there is never an urgency to get me to the register, in fact there are plenty of times that I don’t make it to the register. I know that it sounds odd, but when you are in retail, you discover that not every customer is a purchaser, but he or she is still a potential customer. The purchases far exceed the non-purchase visits, but there are always new wines to learn about. Some times they pour me a glass of wine, that they are thinking about, and that bottle is a sample that they have received from one of their many suppliers. I offer my thoughts on the wine and I am sure that they have already made their decision, but a second outside voice is always reassuring.
Vite Colte Villata Roero Arneis DOCG 2020, which is owned by Terre da Vino in the heart of the Piedmont. I have to admit that I did not know about Roero or Arneis, but even at my age there is still time to learn. Roero DOCG is a small district in the hills of the Piedmont, known for its refreshing whites made from Arneis, and for their bold red reds made from Nebbiolo. The district is named after the Roero family, who were powerful bankers in the Middle Ages. The classic Roero Bianco must be at least ninety-five percent Arneis, the other five percent can be any other local white varietal. They tend to grow the on the northern slopes of the hills, while Nebbiolo grows on the southern side. For a while, the grape almost became extinct, as all the interest was in the red wines. The grape can be difficult to grow and was often grown along side the Nebbiolo, because its fruit was sweeter and the birds would feed on the white grapes and leave the red grapes alone. Traditionally a dash of Arneis was added to the Nebbiolo to soften the tannins, similar to how Viognier is used in parts of the Rhone. It is easy to understand why it was unknown to me. This wine was made from hand harvested grapes and it undergoes cold maceration and spends ten days on the lees in Stainless Steel. The wine is a pretty straw color, and the nose offered pears and apricots. The wine was very crisp and fresh with the notes of fruit and a tinge of hazelnut with a touch of minerals in the finish. Just a delightful wine, and since the bottle was a sample, they gave me the balance of the bottle to let my Bride try it.
About two weeks later, they called me that the wine was in and I went to get some. While I was there, I mentioned a wine that was getting a lot of comments on one of my Social Media sites. I said I had never heard of a grape varietal Turbiana, I felt foolish, but we looked it up and it is the local name for Verdicchio, the white wine that has suffered from over production from some of the big houses. They opened up a bottle right from the shelf, it was not chilled, but so that everyone could try it. It was a bottle of Azienda Agricola Ottella “Lugana” DOC 2020. In 1964, the family discovered a book about a winery in the region that grew Turbiana at the turn of the last century and they really got into the project and by 1967 Lugana DOC was created with the local grape Turbiana. This was also the period that the winery was growing and creating their own brand. The name Lugana refers to the clay vessels that the winery that they read about used for aging their wines. Verdicchio is probably the most planted white varietal in Italy, and there are wineries that are striving to restore the honor that the grape has lost in the past fifty years. Some of the other names that will be used instead of Verdicchio is Trebbiano di Soave, Trebbiano di Lugana, Trebbiano Valtanesi, Marchigiano and Turbiana di Lugana. The wine uses soft pressing of the whole bunch, and some with gentle destemming by oscillation. Then temperature-controlled fermentation for five months on fine lees. This wine had the straw color, with the telltale marks of quality Verdicchio, which is notes of almonds, honey and marzipan and high acidity with a touch of lemon and grapefruit in a crisp, dry finish. I had to get some of this wine while I was there, and they told me to take the bottle that we drank at room temperature home with me as well for my Bride. You don’t get this type of attention at the big wine shops.