Nestled in the Italian Alps between the French and Swiss border lies the tiny Alpine wine making region of the Valle d’Aosta. The largest wine making fish in this smallest of vinous ponds is internationally acclaimed producer, Les Crêtes. Until recently most of this acclaim was directed at their flagship wine the Chardonnay Cuvée Bois. This year, the Les Crêtes Chardonnay Cuvée Bois 2015 missed out on it’s habitual Tre Bicchiere. I’m reviewing this wine to see if Les Crêtes are guilty of forfeiting quality in the drive for quantity. Or whether their diversification plan is bringing greater quality throughout the range.
Les Crêtes have been producing wine since 1800 but have recently launched an ambitious growth strategy. They’re buying up quality vineyard plots in the valley and upping production at a rate of knots. The latest vintage tallies over 180,000 bottles. Les Crêtes have expanded their range to seventeen and have recently added a 100% Nebbiolo. Despite the growth, it’s their flagship Chardonnay that scoops the largest haul of points and awards year on year, until this year.
This year the wine gongs have gone to the reds. Two Decanter wine awards have gone to the Petit Arvine and Fumin but it’s the Nebbiolo Sommet, the new Nebbiolo from 30 year old vines, that took the prestigious Tre Bicchiere in 2018. I’ve been dying to try the Nebbiolo Sommet since it was released and thought it would be exciting to try these wines side by side along with a handful of other, award winning, Les Crêtes stable mates.
Les Crêtes Chardonnay Cuvée Bois 2015
The Les Crêtes Chardonnay Cuvée Bois 2015 sits a golden yellow in the glass. The nose is typically Burgundian but with a warm spicy note I’ve seen less in prior vintages. The wood is noticeable with butter and almond notes but kept in fair relation to generous fruit with pear and pineapple at the fore. On the palate this wine is opulent and luscious with a dense mouth-feel and fruity, fresh finish that maintains its hold on the palate for half a minute or more. Another quality Cuvée Bois. A hot summer in 2015 followed by a torrential mid-August may have spoilt some Valle d’Aosta wines but I feel this vintage lost out on a Tre Bicchiere due to some atypical notes versus prior vintages, unfair? This is still a quality wine. 90 Points. £35/30€
Les Crêtes Nebbiolo Sommet 2015
A pale garnet, the first thing that strikes you about this wine is its intense heady aromas of strawberries, spice, rose and anise. On the palate this wine has great finesse and is well structured, this wine will live a long, healthy and delicious life! Full bodied, warm and grippy, the finish is full of fruit and promise. 94 Points. £40/31€
Les Crêtes Fumin 2015
A deep ruby red with blue hues. This Fumin offers notes of blackcurrant jam, peppercorn and violets and some ripe jammy fruits. Lip smackingly dry and full bodied, this 100% Fumin will be a revelation for those who think quality reds in Northern Italy are confined to Nebbiolo and Barbera. The palate offers deep fruit flavours with some more violet and blackberry culminating in a long finish. Strong streak of acidity and firm tannins – this wine will be even better in five years. 92 Points. £20/16.50€
Les Crêtes Petite Arvine 2016
The wine sits a straw yellow in the glass. A little tight on the nose but eventually offers stone fruit aromas with grapefruit and lemon playing the lead characters. A rich mouth-feel with some chalky notes reminiscent of caramelised apricots from time on lees. Solid acidity. A gracious wine. 90 Points. £20/16.50€
In conclusion, it appears that you can indeed “lose weight and gain muscle”. Far from compromising on quality, Les Crêtes seem to have done the near impossible, expanded their range whilst maintaining quality. The Les Crêtes Chardonnay Cuvée Bois 2015 probably lost its Tre Bicchiere due to vintage and it could be argued, was a victim of its own prior success and typicity for this is still a world class Chardonnay.
19/09/18 – I have been informed by Les Cretes via Twitter that they have been awarded the Tre Bicchiere for the Cuvée Bois for the 2016 vintage. See the Gambero Rosso notification on all 2019 winners in the Valle d’Aosta here.