The Piercing, Creamy, High-Tension Roero Arneis from Domenico Almondo
It’s Piedmont’s most coveted white. The best versions are wonderfully crisp and refreshing, infused with citronelle, honeysuckle, and a hint of almond — the perfect match for gnocchi, fresh-pressed olive oil, and aged Reggiano. Bruno Giacosa makes a good one, as do Vietti and Matteo Correggia. But ask any of Barolo’s brightest stars or any serious sommelier from NYC to Milan and you’ll hear the same thing: No Arneis holds a candle to Domenico Almondo’s “Bricco delle Ciliegie.”
We first met Domenico in 2007 on the sandy hillsides of Roero. The maker of Piedmont’s most ethereal white sported a dark tractor-tan. Domenico spent two hours with us, most of it walking the rows of Ciliegie, often dipping down on both knees, scooping soil into his palms, allowing fine sandy clay to sift through his fingers.
When the cold-pressed olio was drizzled over the handmade tortelloni and the first bottle of 2002 “Ciliegie” uncorked, we were elated, figuring we’d quickly cracked the toughest nut in Roero. But as we’d learn over espresso and bite-sized chunks of bitter chocolate, we were way off base. Domenico’s dinner invitation was heartfelt, but it was also a gracious apology. Every bottle of “Bricco delle Ciliegie” had been allocated well before release. “Come back next year,” Almondo said hopefully. “Maybe something changes?”
It took us four years and plenty of pregos to finally wrest that first pallet of one of Italy’s most sought-after and ethereally zesty whites from Giovanni Almondo. But in retrospect, that wasn’t so long given the competition dead set on squeezing out a drop of the greatest of Arneis, the “Bricco delle Ciliegie.”
Who else is in the running? In Piedmont, much of Barolo trades $75 single-vineyard reds for a spring release case of “Ciliegie.” From Milan to Rome, every top trattoria and ristorante is in the hunt. And after NYC’s hottest spots — think Marea, Del Posto, and Otto — WineAccess comes first!
For those of you who were quick to hop on the “Ciliegie” bandwagon in the early years, you know what came next. Rave reviews from Parker, Galloni, and Tanzer primed the pump. Each May, our hundred-case allocation disappeared in a nanosecond. Buyers not only showered WineAccess with 4- and 5-star ratings, but with requests for more. Nearly all were disappointed, trumped by increasing demand from NYC’s hottest restaurants and most plugged-in sommeliers.
The 2016 Giovanni Almondo Roero Arneis Bricco delle Ciliegie is another extraordinary and drop-dead gorgeous effort — perhaps one of the best from a terrific vintage for whites in Piedmont. Brilliant green-tinged yellow and gold, infused with vibrant and piercing aromas of honeysuckle, ripe citrus, white flowers and spiced orchard fruit. Creamy, yet teeming with bright acidity, packed with juicy lemon curd, ripe pear, and a stunning salty mineral thread. Finishes with incredible freshness and tension. Drink now through 2025.