Fontanafredda Pradalupo Roero Arneis 2014
Since 1878, the Fontanafredda Estate & Winery, located in the heart of Piedmont’s Langhe region, has been a benchmark producer of Barolo and Barbera, crafting wines that deftly balance deep aromas and concentration of fruit with elegance.
The history of Fontanafredda is a noble one. It began in 1858 after the unification of Italy, when the country’s first king, Vittorio Emanuele II, purchased this beautiful estate in Piedmont’s Langhe region. Here he started producing wine from native varietals, Dolcetto, Barbera and Nebbiolo, which later developed into a commercial business under the direction of the King’s son, Count Mirafiori. Fontanafredda released their first Nebbiolo labeled as Barolo with the 1878 vintage.
The 250-acre Fontanafredda Barolo cru property in Serralunga d’Alba is the single largest contiguous wine estate in the Langhe. Additional properties in the communes of Barolo and Diano d’Alba bring the total acreage of estate-owned land to 305. The ability to source fruit from some of the Barolo region’s most prized vineyard sites provides Fontanafredda with grapes of the highest quality. There are two main soil types that cover Barolo: Tortonian in the western region that is heavy in clay and magnesium deposits. Wines grown in this soil tends to be more fragrant, elegant and soft, but with notable richness. In eastern Barolo, the chalky, limestone and mineral rich Helvetian soil produces wines of deeper color, body and tannic structure, making for long-lived wines.
Fontanafredda owners Oscar Farinetti and business partner Luca Baffigo Filangieri - founders of the famous EATALY concepts in Italy, Japan and New York - have provided full support to a series of initiatives that started in 1999 by winemaker Danilo Drocco and viticulturist Alberto Grasso. These initiatives involve changes in both the winery and the vineyards that aim to increase the quality of the wines and ensure greater sustainability measures. Drocco and Grasso guide the winery and estate with a philosophy of ecological responsibility and future sustainability. All estate vineyards are managed to achieve a “zero chemical” program, using only natural methods for fertilization and pest control. The vineyard team is working with their grower partners across the region to transition them to the same eco-friendly farming standards. The Fontanafredda estate operates as a refuge for a wide array of local flora and fauna.
Even to this day, the Roero folklore lives on about witchcraft lurking behind its dramatic contours and obscure woods—but these stories only add to the region’s allure and charm. Actually today Roero winemakers are some of the most astute and motivated in Piedmont. While the white Arneis has attracted global attention for some time, now Roero Nebbiolo wines (elevated to the same DOCG status as Barolo and Barbaresco) are making a name for themselves. Keep an eye on any labeled with the vineyard, Valmaggiore, as Barolo producers have been investing here for years. If you’re looking for hidden gems, this is your region!
Yielding a dry and subtly scented wine, Arneis is the star white grape of Piedmont. While it once risked extinction, lost in the shadow of the regions' star red varieties, Nebbiolo, Barbera and Dolcetto, the grape experienced an explosion in popularity in the 1980s due to growing local demand for white wine. Barolo and Barbaresco producers finally recognized the gold mine of superb Arneis vines that had been growing for decades in Roero, merely kilometers away across the Tanaro River.
This low-yielding variety ripens in the second half of September and its wine is typically fermented in stainless steel only in order to preserve its fresh acidity.
In the Glass
Full of ripe white peach, green apple, raw almond and savory notes on the palate, the wine naturally often smells of vanilla and white flowers, making it a fantastic summer sipper, porch wine and in Piedmont, apertivo wine.
There is no shortage of quaffable, light and young Arneis poured by the glass locally in every Piemontese bar, café, and restaurant. It pairs perfectly with light soft, fresh cheeses, prosciutto, flaky white fish, herb-laden fritatta and pesto.
A few key Roero producers are also focusing on exploring the ageability of high quality Arneis. It isn’t grown anywhere else in Italy but to a very limited extent, producers in California, Oregon, Australia and New Zealand are growing this grape and the results are promising.