Saturday, June 13, 2015

Arneis through the eyes of Malvira in the Roero

This Wine Pairing Weekend (#winepw) on wine and food pairings with arneis is right up my alley, not only because the focus is on this Italian white grape from Piedmont, but also because in the last month I just had the opportunity to meet one of the charming owners and winemaker, Roberto Damonte, of the Malvira winery in the Roero of Piedmont. I'll very rarely pass up an opportunity to meet an Italian winemaker visiting the Boston area if I can help it. They always have such great stories to tell and information to share.
Owner of Malvira winery, Roberto Damonte
Me with Roberto Damonte, Owner of Malvira winery in the Roero of Piedmont
The Malvira winery
The Malvira winery began in the 1950's when Roberto's father started the winery. The name stems from the word "mal" meaning badly and "vira" meaning situated.  The winery used to be north facing, obviously being a bad situation for a winery as the most ideal conditions for grape growing are south facing.  Roberto and his brother Massimo took over the winery in 1974 and their mission was to focus more on quality than the quantity of wines that were being produced previously. Malvira produces organic wines on 104 acres across 6 vineyard sites with about 380,000 annually. 
Azienda Agrizola Malvira Roero Piemonte
Azienda Agrizola Malvira - copyright
Malvira produce a variety of Italian grapes including barbera, nebbiolo, birbet and favorita, but its their arneis that they pride themselves on. Their arneis vines are 40-45 years of age,which lend to lower yields with higher quality grapes.  The arneis grape itself translates to “little rascal”.  Fortunately arneis was saved and is one of the most widely planted white grapes in Piedmont as it was facing extinction in the 20th century.
Nebbiolo, Arneis, Barbera wines of Malvira wineryThe two arneis wines I sampled from Malvira were the the 2012 Malvira Roero Arneis and the 2009 Malvira Roero Arneis Trinita.  The '12 Malvira Roero Arneis DOCG is a blend of the different vineyard sites of the Malvira winery that is aged 4-8 months in stainless steel.  The '09 Malvira Vigna Trinita DOCG is a single vineyard that is aged 90% in stainless steel for 6 months with 10% of the juice aged in French oak for 6 months.  My personal preference was for the 2012 Malvira Roero Arneis as I appreciated the crisp, clean, ripe fruit with minerality opposed to the Trinita, named after the small church at the top of the vineyard, that had a hint of oak and more tropical flavors.
2012 Malvira Arneis Roero, Piedmont
The Roero
The Roero is located in the southern part of Piedmont known as the Langhe, but is further within the Cuneo province.  According to Malvira's website the Roero is named after the Conti-Roero family that lived there in the 14th century.  What's unique about the Roero is that prior to 1000 A.D. this area of Piedmont was covered by the sea so it's not uncommon to come across sea fossils from ancient seabeds within the vineyards themselves.  
Wine map of Roero wine region in Piedmont
Copyright of Federdoc
Food pairing with Arneis
In deciding a food pairing with arneis it brought me to the idea of using the fresh vegetables that I just got this week from my  CSA farmshare.  I have always grown my own large garden, but last year we had a little mischievous critter, woodchucks, that ate all my produce so this year I decided to give the CSA a shot and hopefully the woodchuck will venture off without a year of the fruits of my labor.  He sure had a big belly at the end of the season I must say.

I chose to pair with the Arneis a recipe from David's new cookbook of Cooking Chat, the original founder of our #WinePW.  He just recently published his first book Collards and Kale and I thought it was a great opportunity to test out one of the recipes by using his Creamy Penne with Kale and Mushrooms recipe.  I made some adjustments to the recipe. I'm always looking to boost up my protein intake so I chose to add some sliced chicken into the recipe.  The healthy alternative was a 1/2 pack of silken tofu, but my experience with tofu so far hasn't been to my liking so I choose to use a olive oil garlic sauce instead.  Lastly, fusilli is my favorite pasta so I was in the mood for that this week.

Fusilli with Kale and Mushrooms
1 pound of fusilli
1 onion chopped
12 oz of mushrooms sliced
Head of kale
1/2 tsp of rosemary
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
2-3 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp of parsley
Sliced chicken or sausage
fresh grated parmesan for serving
sea salt and pepper to taste


  • On low heat, heat up olive oil in pan and add minced garlic along with a sprinkle of sea salt.  In meantime boil pot of water for pasta adding salt to the pot.
  • After a few minutes add chopped onions to garlic and olive oil.  Cook until onions begin to go clear and soften.
  • Add mushrooms and cook until softened.
  • Chop kale and begin to add to the mushroom, onion and olive oil mixture.  Add rosemary, additional salt and pepper to taste.  Cover ingredients and simmer on low heat for about 10 minutes
  • Saute chicken or sausage in separate pan in a couple tablespoons of olive oil
  • Add pasta once water has begun to boil and prepare until dictated time.
  • Once pasta and chicken are fully cooked, add both to saute pan with other ingredients and mix together. Upon serving top with fresh grated parmesan cheese.
 food pairing with Arneis in Piedmont
Food and Wine Pairing with Arneis
The Arneis was a nice complement to the Fusilli with Kale and Mushrooms.  I felt that the citrus and crisp acidity of the wine paired well with the slight bitterness of the kale along with the other components of this dish.  I think if this dish had a creaminess to it as the original recipe had it would still be a nice choice.   
Wine pairing with Fusilli, kale and mushrooms

June Wine Pairing Weekend Round-up: More Summer Arneis Food Pairing Recipes!

We'll be talking about Arneis and summer wine pairings later today during our Twitter chat at 11:00 ET by following the hashtag #WinePW.

Wine Pairing Weekend July: Join us next month!

In July Americans celebrate Independence Day and the French celebrate Bastille Day. July's Wine Pairing Weekend will take place on Saturday, July 11, led by Michelle Williams of Rockin Red Blog. The group will explore food and wine pairings from the United States and France. Get creative and make your favorite all American food and wine meal, your favorite all French food and wine meal, one of each or a combination of both! With these two regions the sky is the limit!
Source: Malvira Winery