The origins of this Italian grape variety are not 100% agreed upon or clear, even to the “authorities.” Some put forth the idea that it is related to grapes in neighboring Piedmont while others suggest it is a field mutation that developed on its own in the Valle d’Aosta. What is known is that the Romans brought vines to the Valle d’Aosta.
The grape has a very short cycle in terms of its maturation which allows it to be cultivated at high altitudes such as those found in the Valle d’Aosta. For those of you who have been to Valle d’Aosta, you know what I am talking about. Driving up the highway at 400pm even in the summer, the peaks of the Alps accompany you throughout your stay and the majesty of the area is on full display as are the heights of the terraces where vines are grown. I have always marveled at how they are able to pick these grapes and ripen them enough to make good wines.
This white grape variety was the first that I ever had in the Valle d’Aosta when I went skiing in Gressoney about 13 years ago. The wine was from Cave Cooperatives di Donnas. This year, the comune of Donnas is celebrating the 40th anniversary of their obtaining the denominazione d’origine controllata (DOC) designation. I believe they are having a big party on Saturday, in fact.
I have also had the Blanc de Morgex et de la Salle from the
Cave du Vin. These wines and Blanc de Morgex from other producers are available in the US but not that widely.
This is a fresh and friendly white wine which is a perfect drink on the mountains after a tough day on the slopes or after a hike in that beautiful countryside. I’ve always had it with mountain cheese such as Fontina DOP, charcuterie such as Jambon de Bosses DOP, Lard d’Arnad or alone as an aperitif.
I wish I had great pictures from the Valle d’Aosta. It is such a marvelous and special place. I have been skiing there a number of times (Monte Cervino, Monte Bianco, La Thuile) in my years in Italy and each time came back with a renewed respect for the mountains, the land and the wines. I have not spent much time there during the summer but I am sure the hiking rivals the skiing.
Each year they have an exposition for their wines in September. The association is called the Associazione Viticulteurs Encaveurs. In Italian, the term “viticultura eroica” means that those harvesting the wines are basically “heros” because it is so difficult in terms of the slope of the terraces.
In terms of wine production, there are a number of cooperatives as well as many individual producers. I also learned that some 40% of the members of the cooperatives are women, a fact I found quite interesting.
I spent a long time with a sommelier from the Valle d’Aosta at VInitaly this year. He was so incredibly well prepared and knowledgeable that I felt I had taken a trip through the region and through the vineyards with him. In fact, I highly suggest going to the sommelier booths at Vinitaly in years to come. You learn a lot and can taste many wines. I went on the last day of the fair at 900 AM and was alone with him for about one hour. I realize not everyone has that luxury. I felt very lucky that I did. It was one of my favorite tastings at the fair and among the most instructive. I will write that up another day.
For now, just an invitation and a suggestion – visit the Valle d’Aosta on your next holiday, winter or summer and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.