White wines from Valle d’Aosta Hit High Notes

Valle d'Aosta

Italy is an incredibly beautiful country, with 20 regions, many which have Alpine wines thanks to the presence of two mountain ranges, the Alps and the Apennine Mountains which run 1000 km from North to South through the peninsula. Today, I am looking to the smallest region in the North, the Valle d’Aosta. The tag line they use is “Un Cuore di Natura.” Anyone who has ever been to the Valle d’Aosta knows that this is true.

Lucky for me and so many others who live or lived in Milan, going to the Valle d”Aosta was really just a stone’s throw away. I spent many wonderful weekends skiing on those slopes and many others admiring the sheer landscape, the castles and most of all the sky at night filled with twinkling stars.

In addition to its’ skiing and hiking possibilities, the Valle d’Aosta is renowned for its cheese, salumi, chocolates and of course, its’ wines.

The first wine most people try from the Valle d’Aosta is from the cooperative Donnas but this is only the beginning.

There is a Routes des Vins in the Valle d’Aosta that allows you to discover more than 35 private wineries and six coops. In the Valle d’Aosta there are privately held wineries as well as cooperatives. You can even hike and do wine tasting at the same time if you follow the Chemin des Vignobles.

Some years ago at Vinitaly, I went on my own path through the Valle d’Aosta led by an extraordinarily well-prepared Sommelier in the Valle d’Aosta pavilion. I tried both indigenous varieties and many international varieties.

Sommelier - Valle d'Aosta

While both white and red grape varieties grow there, today I am only writing about white grapes. Among my favorites were wines made from Prie Blanc, Petite Arvine, Pinot Gris, Moscato bianco and Chardonnay. There are many well-known producers in this area including La Crotta di Vegneron, Les Cretes, Grojean Freres and Cave du Vin Blanc.

Most of them practice what is known as “heroic” viticultural because the vineyardss are so incredibly steep. All harvest by hand and some grow on their own rootstocks. Phylloxera never made it to this region.

Valle d'Aosta

One winery I discovered is called Lo Triolet.

Lo Triolet is a perfect example of this. A winery from a town in the Valle d’Aosta called Introd, it is owned by Marco Martin. Martin decided to plant Pinot Gris at an altitude of 900 meters above sea level. After the first vines, he planted additional ones and now has 5 hectares planted from 600 to 900 meters above sea level. The soil is sandy, interestingly enough and is what is known as a morainic soil or the remains of an ancient glacier. Thanks to this past the soil has many minerals. The wines that he produces show this particular terroir and have significant sapidity and minerality. Martin believes in integrated pest management and uses organic materials for fertilizer. The Pinot Gris was the stand out for me of the wines that I tried although his Muscat was also interesting. He also produces a host of wines made from indigenous varietals such as Fumin and Nus.

Muscat Petit Grain

When living in Milan, I was lucky enough to have dear friends with homes in some wonderful ski towns such as Gressoney in the Valle d’Aosta. Gressoney is really two towns, Saint-Jean and La Trinite’. I spent some lovely weekends there and that was when I discovered Blanc de Morgex et de la Salle D.O.C. made from the Prie’ Blanc grape grown in the Aosta Valley. The vineyards where these grapes grow are some of the highest in Europe, at approximately 1200 meters. The grape is quite particular and goes through its entire life cycle very quickly. Most of the vines are not grafted and live on their own rootstocks. The are trained to grow using a trellising system called “pergola bassa” or low canopy. The grape can also be found in the Valais region of Switzerland. The wine is straw yellow in color, with a relatively low gradation of alcohol and has a delicate and fruity bouquet. This is a great wine to drink as an aperitivo or with a light first course. I have many fond memories of those days but alas no digital photos. While the Valle d’Aosta is a long way away, the wine can be found locally which makes me smile.

Anselmet

I have also had great wines made with the Chardonnay grape from the Valle d’Aosta. In particular, one I tried at OperaWine in Verona. This Chardonnay aged in French oak was a real surprise for me but apparently I am late to the game and the winery is among the most well-known from this small, mountainous region of Italy. Maison Anselmet

The winery was started in 1978 by Renato Anselmet and today is run by his son Giorgio. They work with consulting oenologist Beppe Caviola. The wine itself was a beautiful example of Chardonnay aged in wood. Classic, not overblown, I hope to have this wine again soon. The larger format was also spectacular and as we know, wine is almost always better in a magnum.

Les Cretes

Another fantastic chardonnay is Les Cretes Chardonnay Cuvée Bois Valle d’Aosta. The wine was exquisite with a beautiful gold color and a rich bouquet of fruits and flowers with considerable sapidity and oak notes. The wine ferments in small French oak barrels before resting on its lees for 10 months with continuous battonage. It then spends eight months in the bottle before being sold into the market. Not an inexpensive wine, it was very interesting and would pair well with numerous foods from hearty pastas to meat-based dishes and even some aged cheese. It has a hint of late harvest notes with a touch of sweetness that would suggest it could be a good pairing for Foie gras as well.

Les Crêtes was founded in 1989 in Aymavilles (Valle d’Aosta) by Costantino Charrère. His family has owned a water mill since the 1700s and has been in agriculture for five generations. The winery owns 25 hectares in the towns of Saint Pierre, Aymavilles, Gressan, Sarre, Aosta and Saint Christophe. The vineyard parcels are very fragmented and densely planted with 8.000-9.000 plants per hectare. The vineyards are very hilly with sandy and moranic (originating from an ancient glacier) soils. The winery makes some 230,000 a year but only 7,000 of this particular cuvee. Les Cretes makes a number of wonderful wines including those made from indigenous grapes such as Petit Rouge, Fumin, Petite Arvine, Gros Rouge, Cornalin, Mayolet, and Prëmetta as well as wines made from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Syrah.

If you haven’t visited the Valle d’Aosta, try to go there at least once in your life whether for the wines, the skiing, the castles, the hiking or the food. I love this part of Italy and its’ beautiful sky, mountains and fresh air. Driving in that region at night on the way back to Milan was always magical, dark with hundreds of stars. Something I have seen only in Colorado in the US and Chile in South America. I always felt closer to the sky and the universe on nights like that.

Join us later today, Saturday, August 5th at 10 am central on twitter to chat about the Alpine Wines of Italy. Look for the hashtag #ItalianFWT. Everyone is welcome to join us for the chat, which includes questions and answers from these top wine bloggers. Ask your questions, share your travel experiences or clue us in on your favorite Alpine wines.

In time for the chat, the following writers will publish their posts on the topic. Look forward to:.

Jennifer from VinoTravels (and the champion of Italian Food, Wine and Travel) will share Vineyards of the Dolomites with 2013 San Michele all’Adige.

Jennifer is the author of Planning Your Dream Wedding in Tuscany. Her perspectives on Rias Baixes DO, Villa Maria winemaker Helen Morrison and Italian red wines for summer are recent blog highlights.

Katelyn from Throne & Vine presents Divinely Alpine – Exploring the Wines of Elena Walch.

Throne & Vine has recently covered South Tyrol’s wayside shrines, wickedly cool castles in South Tyrol and reasons for visiting Alto Adige.

Lauren from The Swirling Dervish tells the story of Hearts on Fire: A Summer Tradition in Alto Adige.

Visit Lauren’s blog for comprehensive coverage on wines from the Tour de France route, the summer wine blend of Verdicchio + Vermentino and the Burgundian region of Mercurey.

Lynn from Savor the Harvest recommends The One High Altitude Wine Region You Must Try #ItalianFWT.

Lynn’s blog covers her summer French rosé tasting, the French Basque wine region of Irouléguy and the bubbly Italian wine Franciacorta.

Camilla, of Culinary Adventures with Camilla, cooks up Beef & Barolo, Two Piedmontese Darlings.

Peach-tomato salad with herb vinaigrette, grilled Porterhouse with pea-shoot pesto and Arròs Negre {black paella} with allioli a la catalana are some of the fresh features on Camilla’s blog.

Jeff, author of FoodWineClick! gets into Unique Mountain Wines of Alto Adige.

Organic Natura wines, Vignobles Brumont, a Madiran producer in Southwest France and Italian Wine 101: Intro to Italian Wine and Chianti are topics Jeff has on the blog now.

Martin over at Enofylz Wine Blog provides A Taste of Lugana; 2013 Tenuta Roveglia “Vigne di Catullo” Lugana Riserva #ItalianFWT.

Martin covered ten white wines from Lodi for summer, his wines of the day picks and a highlight of Southwestern France’s Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh.

Gwendolyn from WinePredator writes about heading Off to the Alps for #ItalianFWT.

Gwendolyn has published over 600 posts on her blog – this summer she covered the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love, Spanish white wines paired with tacos and how to taste and pair wine + cheese.

Jill at L’occasion has a Winemaker Rendezvous: Ivan Giovanett of Castelfeder. (Also look for a re-feature of Rotari wines on social media.)

Previous Winemaker Rendezvous features include Melissa Burr of Stoller Family Estates, Greg Rowdan of Matua and Theresa Heredia of Gary Farrell (plus more here).

And here at Avvinare, I will cover White Wines from Aosta Hit High Notes.

Recently, I’ve written about underrated Molise, the Italian varietal Marsanne Bianco and the Argentinian winery Dona Paula.

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11 thoughts on “White wines from Valle d’Aosta Hit High Notes

Add yours

  1. Your time living in Italy and having access to skiing and what not in the northern mountains sounds amazing. Having grown up in Colorado, your description resonates with me.

    I just stumbled upon Les Crêtes wines- based on your description their Chardonnay, and the others, (and the Chemin des Vignobles), getting to this region is a priority.

  2. Thanks for the whirlwind tour of the Valle d’Aosta. I’m intrigued by the array of grape varieties and would love to visit the area some day. Until researching my post (and reading yours!) I’d never heard of morainic soils. Learn something new with each edition of #ItalianFWT.

  3. A wonderful read Susannah! We started our Italian adventure in Milano. We loved the city and wish we’d stayed a day or two longer. We’d love to go back. When we were there we considered heading out to Franciacorta, but sounds like we need to add Valle D’Aosta! Thanks for sharing!

  4. I haven’t been to Valle d’Aosta yet, but clearly have been missing out! I had never heard of heroic viticulture before, but that is clearly the perfect way to describe these high-altitude vineyards. These wines sound absolutely elegant and divine. Can’t wait to try some!

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