For several centuries in the beautifully mountainous region of Piedmont in northern Italy, wineries have been cultivating the Arneis grape for use in a range of wines. Although traditionally it was most commonly used as a blending varietal, today Arneis grapes are sought after for use in single variety bottles as a result of their highly aromatic nature, their tart and crisp acids, and their full bodied fruitiness. The name means 'little rascal', referring to the fact that this varietal is notoriously tricky to cultivate. Highly susceptible to various types of mildew, and also quick to over-ripen, the Arneis is far from the easiest grape to grow. However, in Italy and in several New World countries, vintners persevere with it due to its fantastic flavor and unique attributes.
The region of Piedmont in the cool, breezy north-western part of Italy is renowned throughout the world for high quality, flavorful and delicious red wines, and for the elegant and refined sparkling wines such as Asti which typify the area. The region is located at the foothills of the Alps, close to the French and Swiss borders, and benefits from some interesting micro-climates formed by its proximity to the mountain range. The key grapes for the fine red wines of Piedmont are Nebbiolo, Dolcetto and Barbera â€“ all powerful varietals which are packed full of a range of fruit flavors and which have an affinity for oak making them ideal for aging When it comes to the sparkling Asti, wineries cultivate plenty of Moscato grapes, whose relative transparency make them ideal for expressing their terroir and providing some interesting flavors in the bottle.
For several decades in the mid to late twentieth century, Italy's reputation for quality wines took a fairly serious blow. This was brought about partly due to lack of regulation in certain regions, and too much regulation in others. This led to several wineries in the beautiful and highly fertile region of Tuscany making the bold move to work outside of the law, which they saw as responsible for the drop in quality in Tuscan wines. They believed that they had the expertise and the generations of experience necessary with which to make truly excellent, world class wines, and set about doing just that. These 'Super Tuscans', as they came to be known, quickly inspired the rest of Italy to improve their produce, and now, Italian wine producers in the twenty-first century are widely recognised to be amongst the best in the world. Regulation and law began to change, and wine drinkers across the globe woke up to the outstanding wines coming out of Italy, which are continuing to improve and impress to this day.