The Valle d’Aosta; currently synonymous with numerous oddities, skiing, snow, castles, Savoy, Italians speaking French, being tiny, many things, although the Valle d’Aosta produces fabulous wine, some extraordinary and celebrated, the UK wine radar does not pick up the Valle d’Aosta wine waves.
Having had a taste-tastic past experience with Les Cretes, the Gambero Rosso luvvy of the region, I thought I would organise a tasting of the best wines from the Valle d’Aosta from my family home in Umbria and host it at the house of my vintner near neighbour. Possibly a mistake…
Valle d’Aosta wine is nothing like Tuscan or Umbrian wine, its not even close, the grapes are different, the terroir is different, the weather is different.
Valle d’Aosta wines may be considered atypical in terms of our anglo-impressions of Italian wine, in fact blind, you may think these wines are from Germany or Eastern Europe.
Not a chance. Is he wrong? Certainly.
Nowhere is it more obvious that wine evolves around the food of the region than in Italy, this IS a time when you can generalise about a country’s wine. The wines of the Valle d’Aosta represents their region, of course its terroir and indigenous grapes, but also, it’s food.
This wine was not made for the palates of Southern Italians or our English palates, so ingrained with Sangiovese and Sun when we do Italian. When trying the wines of the Valle d’Aosta for the first time you may need to do some mental readjustment (unless you are already au fait with the Piedmont). Certainly with the reds, less so with the whites. We Brits cope well with Muller Thurgau, Muscat and even Petit Arvine but it’s the regions Chardonnays that will spark recognition and therefore often, enjoyment, for most.
Last month we tried 50 of the best Valle d’Aosta wines kindly provided by some of the very best producers in the region. Wines from Les Cretes, Anselmet, La Crotta and rising star Elio Ottin were kindly sent direct from the producers themselves and the next 4 blog posts will be dedicated to each producer in turn. But before this, let’s get up to speed on this little region with big potential.
2. Although 25 different wines are produced here, from Nebbiolo and Chardonnay to Petit Rouge and Pinor Noir there is but one DOC, the DOC Valle d’Aosta.
3. The Valle d’Aosta is home to the highest classified vineyards in Italy at Morgex.
4. The Valle d’Aosta’s most celebrated/decorated wines are its Chardonany and Fumin.
5. Barolo fans may find something interesting in the wines of Donnas, a Nebbiolo wine just over the Piedmont border in the Valle d’Aosta, these wines have been steadily improving in quality over the last 10 years but are still relatively cheap and unknown outside Italy.
6. Although the Valle d’Aosta is located in the alps it has a continental climate with long, hot and dry summers with harvest time in early September.
7. The region is split into 3 main vineyard areas; the Valdigne, the Valle Centrale and the Bassa Valley (that’s Upper Valley, Central Valley and Lower Valley to you).
8. You heard that Phylloxera wiped out the vineyards of Europe? Not so in the highest most reaches of the alps where, at over 3900 feet, those bugs took one look at the mountains and thought “nah”.
9. Even in such a tiny and mountainous area, there are marked differences in the soils of the area. As a rule of thumb you can say the higher up you go the sandier the soil, the lower down, the more alluvial with clay and gravel featuring.
10. The region produces a diverse range of wines. Not only are their 25 different wines produced, these include light and bold red and whites, sweet and sparkling wines. It’s an interesting and diverse region and one any wine lover should take some time to get to know.
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