If we think about the land called Langhe, the first wine that certainly comes to our mind – doesn’t matter if we’re “connoisseurs” or just occasional visitors – let’s say it, is not a white wine. But as soon as we start approaching the summertime and the menus come to be lighter, the white-berried grape immediately becomes more attractive and sought after.
Besides, also in Langa and Roero the attention towards white wine keeps on growing: on one hand the producers have greatly improved and refined their techniques, in the vineyard and in the cellar as well, and on the other hand, the audience who already knows well the “red” production becomes more and more curious to experience tastings of new wines.
Let’s see what the Cellar of our Territory mainly offers and let’s think about some pairing ideas.
Among the most popular wines we certainly find Arneis; the origin of the name is quite controversial, some say it originates from the Bric Renesio near Canale, other sources refer it to the dialectal expression “arneis” which mainly means “tool” but also a reckless, mischievous person.
By now firmly rooted on the tables of our territory, it can be made in many styles, from the simplest and ready-to-drink version to the refined and complex one; from the wine produced with overripe grapes, to the sparkling wine, to the sweet one (passito).
Exactly the great variety of interpretations gives us so many possibilities, but always bearing in mind that we’re talking about a white with medium acidity.
Rather savoury versions of Arneis such as those produced in the Valmaggiore area are very “gastronomic” and perfect for balancing dishes with a high grade of “sweetness” or those served with sauces, while the classic young Arneis wines, normally consumed within the year, can work really nice both as aperitifs and in combination with light vegetable appetizers or with our awesome omelettes made of wild herbs, harvested in this period of the year.
For a pairing with first courses, always made of vegetables, we can choose a more complex and bigger-bodied expression of this wine and so on, ending with a nice Arneis passito paired with blue cheese.
Favorita, also called Furmentin (wheat in Piedmontese language) due to the golden-yellow colour of its berry that recalls ear of wheat, in the past was also consumed as a table grape.
It is probably a biotype of Vermentino, of Pigato from Liguria, which in the years adapted and transformed, acquiring various specifications of our territory.
Rather widespread on the sandy soils of Roero, it certainly goes well with seafood. Coming to our cuisine, it works very well with vegetable-based appetizers such as stuffed courgette flowers or with white-meat ones such as marinated rabbit or cockerel salad and finally, even with delicate red-meat dishes such as roast beef with tuna sauce that goes pretty fine with the acid salts of Favorita.
Nascetta, also called Anas-cétta or Nas-cëtta, once widespread in the whole area of Alba, dwindled down in the years to a few rows of the vineyards, in Novello only.
Right there, since 1994, almost “undercover” (in view of the fact that this grape variety wasn’t officially demarcated until 2001) this awesome local vine has been re-discovered and recovered: nowadays there are more than 50 hectares of Nascetta vineyards in the Langhe DOC, of which 20 in Novello.
This variety, defined as semi-aromatic, very versatile, lends itself to vinification and aging both in wood and steel; the wine, both can be served young or left to evolve in the bottle for several years with pretty surprising results.
It’s a full-bodied savoury wine, with aromas of rosemary, thyme, sage, honey and citrus fruits, grapefruit in the first place; it’s got a slight almond finish, while if left to evolve acquires notes of hydrocarbon (petrol, kerosene) and dried fruit.
There’s the same versatility in the potential pairings: our Russian salad, tartrà (vegetable pudding), sweet ‘n sour vegetables, Caesar’s mushrooms, risottos with vegetables or with medium-aged cheese, ravioli filled with ricotta and greens. During one of the recent Chapters we paired with success a risotto with broccoli and anchovies with a Nas-cëtta from Novello.
In my opinion it’s one of those local grape varieties that in the future will make us discover great white wines, it’s a massive promise that has already been kept in many cases.
Certainly, all the international wine varieties such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon or Viognier cannot miss, interpreted in remarkably different styles (and prices), as well as others originating from the territories near to ours, but the grape that is probably having the hugest international recognition for its version made in Langa is Riesling, which has probably found in our land very favourable climatic and soil conditions: we will definitely hear about it.
The most widespread white-berried grape in the area is definitely Moscato: the lion’s share is obviously made up of sweet and semi-sweet, fizz or sparkling wines, where this aromatic vine offers a range of scents and aromas perfect for the pairing with a huge selection of desserts.
In alternative, I’d like to mention a very difficult pairing, the one with asparagus, on all our tables in this season: a very few wines manage to marry this vegetable, especially when it’s got the main role within the dish, served with a few other ingredients. Moscato, in its “still” version and vinified dry, is capable of balancing well that purely herbaceous side of the asparagus.
A dimostrazione dell’importanza crescente di questi vini, da qualche anno, proprio in questo periodo, l’Associazione Italiana Sommelier organizza con grandissimo successo una approfondita degustazione di tutti i bianchi piemontesi.
As proof of the growing importance of these wines, for some years now, right in this period of the year, the Italian Sommelier Association has been organising with great success an in-depth tasting of all the Piedmontese whites.
In the coming years, in addition to our beloved great red wines, ever more elegant and classic, we can also expect a thriving of extremely pleasant, drinkable and, in some cases, suitable for aging whites, other gems of our extraordinary land.
by Maestro Ugo Venturino