Category Archives: Valle d’Aosta

Wine Wednesday: Petite Arvine from Ottin (Valle d’Aosta)

Ottin Petite Arvine

This week’s blizzard has really made me miss ife on the slopes, all of it. I always remember the panini with speck and asiago cheese that I would eat when skiing in Italy and the desire to drink Vin Brule but the knowledge that too much of it would make me a worse skier. Hopefully, a settimana bianca will again be part of my life as Niccolo’ learns to ski and wants to go. It’s a great tradition in Italy that I miss.

This week’s wine of the week for wine wednesday is about Petite Arvine from Ottin. It was very clear and crisp with nice minerality and acidity. A straight-forward wine, “franco” the Italians wood say.

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 one 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.

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.

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Filed under Indigeous varieties, Valle d'Aosta, Wine of the Week, Wine of the Week, Wine Schools, Wine Wednesday, wines

Discover Off the Beaten Path Nebbiolos from the Carema and Canavese DOCs

italy 600

While people often debate the merits of Brunello vs. Barolo or Barolo vs Barbaresco, the smaller appellations where Nebbiolo grows are often overlooked. This is certainly the case with Carema DOC and it is a real shame. I first heard of these wines about 20 years ago when I lived in Florence and someone who was close to me mentioned them as sensational wines. He had worked for many years at Olivetti in Ivrea and discovered the wines during his years in Piedmont. I always remembered the name Carema because it sounded musical and lyrical to me. The wines when I finally tried them a couple of years later were what I could call lyrical –  elegant and beautiful expressions of Nebbiolo. Carema is located in the province of Turin very close to the Valle d’Aosta. In fact, I visited there after a skiing vacation in the Valle d’Aosta, an amazing part of Italy as well, and not to be missed.

These are some of the most northern Nebbiolos one will find and growing vines on the steep and terraced vineyards there is quite difficult. The wines are a tad more austere than some of the Nebbiolos people might be used to. They also have great acidity, again not, what one immediately associates with Nebbiolo. There are two varieties of Nebbiolo that grow in this area, one is called Picutener and the other  Pugnet. Carema sits on the remains of a moraine at the foot of the Maletto mountain. In addition to this special mineral rich soil, the climate also helps to grow healthy grapes as the weather is somewhat mild, and protection from harsh winds can be found both from the alps and the smaller hills surrounding the area. Furthermore, the climate is mitigated by the presence of a myriad of lakes.

The grapes grow at altitudes of 350 – 700 meters in a pergola form supported by stone pillars. These are mountain wines. It is very hard work and erosion and damage to the terracing is common, requiring constant attention to the vineyards. The terraces are all supported by dry walls. The thermal excursion or difference between day and night temperatures in this area is quite large, adding to the elegance and balance one finds in these wines as it helps grapes reach phenolic ripeness. The pillars also help to retain heat during the day and then they release it at night, again, helping to keep the vines healthy with a good balance between acidity and sugar in the grapes.

The wines are aged for 24 months by law, at least 12 of which in oak or chestnut barrels. For the Reserva level, they age for 36 months. While Caluso makes wines with Erbaluce and Canavese makes many wines not just Nebbiolo as one finds in Carema, all three are grouped together in a Consortium and thus I am mentioning all three of them. The first Consortium was established in 1991 for Caluso DOC wines. In 1996, the Consortium added Carema DOC wines and finally in 1998, Canavese DOC wines. The Consortium has some 26 members. Carema is located near a famous town called Pont Saint Martin. This is a picture of the remains of a castle there. It is named for a Roman bridge that crosses the Dora Baltea river there.


Nebbiolo also grows in the Canavese area which includes one hundred towns near Turin and 10 near the Piedmont towns of Biella and Vercelli. Other grape varieties also go into this designation including Barbera, Bonarda, Freisa and Neretto. For the Canavese Nebbiolo DOC, some 85% of the wine must come from Nebbiolo grapes, while the other 15% can be made up of other locally-grown red grapes. These Nebbiolo based wines are generally more fruit forward and less austere than the ones from Carema. Carema is much smaller than Canavese, as one can see from the list below  of production areas.  Two very well known producers  who are available in the USA are  Cantina Produttori Nebbiolo di Carema and Luigi Ferrando. Click here to find them.

The Carema DOC winegrowing area is in the town of Carema while the Canavese DOC winegrowing area is in the following towns:

Province of Torino: Agliè, Albiano d’Ivrea; Alice Superiore, Andrate, Azeglio, Bairo, Baldissero Canavese, Balangero, Banchette, Barbania, Barone, Bollengo, Borgiallo, Borgofranco d’Ivrea, Borgomasino, Burolo, Busano, Cafasse, Caluso, Candia Canavese, Caravino, Carema, Cascinette d’Ivrea, Castellamonte, Castelnuovo Nigra, Chiaverano, Chiesanuova, Ciconio, Cintano, Cofieretto Castelnuovo, Colleretto Giacosa, Corio, Coassolo, Cossano Canavese, Cuceglio, Cuorgnè, Favria, Feletto, Fiorano Canavese, Forno Canavese, Front, Germagnano, Ivrea, Lanzo Torinese, Lessolo, Levone, Loranzè, Lugnacco, Lusigliè, Maglione, Mazzè, Mercenasco, Montalenghe, Montaldo Dora, Nomaglio, Oglianico, Orio Canavese, Ozegna, Palazzo Canavese, Parella, Pavone Canavese, Pecco, Perosa Canavese, Pertusio, Piverone, Pont Canavese, Prascorsano, Pratiglione, Quagliuzzo, Quassolo, Quincinetto, Rivara, Rivarolo Canavese, Romano Canavese, Salassa, Salerano, Sarnone, San Carlo Canavese, San Colombano Belmonte, San Giorgio Canavese, San Giusto Canavese, San Martino Canavese, San Ponso, Scarmagno, Settitno Rottaro, Settirno Vittone, Strambinello, Strambino, Tavagnasco, Torre Canavese, Valperga, Vauda Canavese, Vestignè, Vialfrè, Vidracco, Villareggia, Vische, Vistrorio;

Province of Biella: Cavaglià, Dorzano, Roppolo, Salussola, Viverone, Zimone;

Province of Vercelli: Alice Castello e Moncrivello.

These Nebbiolos are absolutely worth searching out and can be both of good value and wines to keep.

Check out other alternative Nebbiolos and our discussion later today on Twitter.

Blog and Chat With Us!
Our group will get together for a chat on Twitter 10-11am today, Saturday, February 4th  to discuss our finds. Join us at #ItalianFWT!!

  • Jill from L’occasion shares The Test in Life is Unity: G. D. Vajra Langhe Nebbiolo
  • Susannah from Avvinare shares Discover Off the Beaten Path Nebbiolos from the Caluso, Carema and Canavese
  • Lauren from The Swirling Dervish shares 2015 Cantalupo “Il Mimo” Rosato Nebbiolo
  • Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares Zuppa di Cipolla al Vino Rosso + Bava’s “Gionson” Nebbiolo
  • Mike from Undiscovered Italy shares Let’s Go Grumello
  • Jen from Vino Travels shares The Land and Soul of Ceretto
  • Gwen from Wine Predator shares Silver and Gold: Nebbiolo from Santa Barbara and Italy
  • Jeff from FoodWineClick! shares Nebbiolo Grows On My Desert Island

    Filed under #ItalianFWT, Piedmont, Valle d'Aosta, wines

    Lo Triolet’s Pinot Gris From Valle d’Aosta

    Pinot Gris from Triolet

    Lo Triolet is a winery from the Valle d’Aosta that I discovered on my last trip to Vinitaly thanks to some friends from the Italian Sommelier Association. I like tasting with others from this group because their approach is very different from the one used in either the US or the UK. Often, they also know many smaller producers from various regions that I wouldn’t have access to from my home in New York City.

    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. From 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 moraine 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

    I am a fan of the Valle d’Aosta and the wines they produce. A beautiful place to go skiing, I am sure it is also a lovely place to visit in the summer although I have never had the pleasure. Maybe someday…

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    Filed under Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian regions, Italian wineries, Memorable Events, Travel, Valle d'Aosta, wines

    Saturday Surprise: Anselmet Chardonnay (Eleve en Fut de Chene) 2012 from Valle d’Aosta


    I know it is 1030 a.m. on Saturday morning but it’s a beautiful day outside and I am remembering with pleasure a wine I had last month at OperaWine. I would love a glass at lunch but alas, it is not available in my neighborhood and Valle d’Aosta is a far jaunt for this particular Saturday.

    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.

    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.

    For more information about Anselmet, check out this post Wine90.

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    Filed under Chardonnay, Italian regions, Italian wineries, Memorable Events, OperaWine, Saturday Surprise, Travel, Valle d'Aosta

    Italian Indigenous Varieties: Fumin from the Valle d’Aosta

    Valle d'Aosta

    This week’s grape variety is Fumin. It is the last variety that starts with the letter “F.” Amazing to me to note, but I have written 111 of these sorts of posts through the years. Italy has such an endless number of grape varieties, there is always something new to learn.

    Fumin is a variety that comes from the Valle d’Aosta. It can be made into a blend but it is also used to make mono-varietal wines and is used in the Valle d’Aosta Denominazione d’origine controllata (D.O.C.) wine. In a blend it brings both color and acidity. In fact, it is a wine that should age a bit before drinking to mellow out some of its robust and rustic aromas and flavors.

    Valle d'Aosta

    Every year at Vinitaly, I try to spend time at the Valle d’Aosta booth. I like the wines and the people, straight forward and frank. Some examples of great Fumin are from the top producers in the Valle d’Aosta, including Grosjean, Les Cretes, and Ottin, among others.

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    Filed under Indigeous varieties, Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian regions, Italian wineries, italy, Valle d'Aosta

    Wine Wednesday: Wine of the Week Les Cretes Chardonnay Cuvée Bois Valle d’Aosta D.O.P. 2009

    Les Cretes

    This week’s wine of the week 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 8 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.

    I will bring the wine to my New Year’s dinner later this evening and see if it pairs with my Apple Honey bundt cake that looks a bit like a donut because the center collapsed. That said, with all those walnuts, honey and apples it can’t be all bad.

    It’s odd to celebrate when the world is so chaotic and so much around us is not as it should be but I believe in holidays and celebrating as often as possible. So Happy New Year, Shana Tova to those who celebrate and a great Indian Summer to all.

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    Filed under Italian DOC Wines, Italian regions, Italian wineries, Valle d'Aosta, Wednesday Reads, Wine of the Week, wines

    Back In The Eternal City – Roma

    I’m back in the eternal city and too excited and overwhelmed to sleep. I’ve in fact been up reading since 400am but no matter life is to be enjoyed “anche durante le ore piccole” or the wee hours of the night.

    I’ve been in town just two days staying with riends from Italy and hanging out with  friends from the States who were in a Master’s program with me in Bologna. In fact, Zach, Julia and their great kids Sam and Jules but not little Elena and I spent part of our afternoon in Piazza Navona.

    We also went to look at the Caravaggio’s in a nearby church, San Luigi dei Francesi. Somewhat overcome with all the emotions of the beauty of Rome, we settled down to have fabulous gelato near the Pantheon. My favorites are always the same, coco e caffe but the chose was difficult.

    San Luigi dei Francesi was one of the stops on my dear friend Teresa’s family tour of Rome. Her father, Brunello, loved Caravaggio and it was with Teresa that I first went to that church. I got to spend an amazing day with her family on Friday in Zagarolo.

    I was Teresa’s testimonio di nozze in 2008 and I’m glad to be here for her fourth anniversary, more or less. I’m sorry that I will be missing the annual festival of the Tordo Matto. I tried this local delicacy for the first time at Teresa and Filippo’s wedding and while I am against eating la carne equina (I can’t even write it),I must say that this dish was particularly memorable and part of me is sorry to not have the opportunity next weekend but I’ll be in the North.

    Teresa and Filippo have introduced me to some of the most incredible restaurants and chefs that I have ever met. Top among them were Sor Anna, Antonello Colonna and the famed sommelier turned restaurateur Pipero. Who you might ask are these people?

    A trio of noted Roman food & wine notables. Anna Dente is the owner and maestra of the Osteria San Cesario.

    Sor Anna is the “quintessenza della Romanita’.” I know not everyone reads Italian but I just found this amazing entry about Sor Anna on the blog Le Forchettine by the multitalented author of This is such a perfect description of Sor Anna and a beautifully written blog post, worth reading with a dictionary to catch some of the underlying things that make Rome great.

    Sor Anna is particularly enamored of Filippo and I have always had royal treatment when I have been at the restaurant. Sadly much of the menu are things that I don’t have nell’anima. Someone who I have always thought was her son but am now less sure asked me if I didn’t like eating the “menu macabro” or a menu of internal meats much to my dad’s chagrin.

    I have never forgotten that statement nor have I ventured towards any of the items on that list but if you are in Rome and like those dishes, Sor Anna is a must.

    Antonello Colonna I met at his restaurant in a town called Labico outside of Rome. It was the first “ristorante di alta cucina italiana” that I had been to in my many years in Italy. Filippo was the assistant sommelier when interviewed Colonna in 2005 and was fascinated with his conceptual ideas of the kitchen, food and the like. I remember him telling me about his plans to open a resort and I see from his site that his dream has been realized. I will have to check it out. He also runs a famed restaurant in Rome at  Palazzo degli Esposizioni.

    Alessandro Pipero, un altro personaggio storico and good friend of Teresa and Filippo’s is perhaps the perfect incarnation of a restaurateur. He also catered their wedding so I have been able to see his work on in the intimate setting of his restaurant as well as at a wedding for 100+ people. This blog post about his new restaurant Pipero al Rex, also in Italian is just dreamy and makes me want to eat immediately, even through it’s only 730am. Not only would I trust all of his food recommendations but wines as well without blinking. Truly a memorable experience, you must meet Pipero at least once in your life and eat in his restaurant drinking wines that he has chosen for you. He also happens to be very funny so it really is a truly memorable evening.

    As if all of this wasn’t enough, I’m staying with my lovely friends who are Rome transplants from Emilia and Milan, Cristina and Giuliano and their three delicious children Emma, Camilla and Giacomo who wasn’t born at the time of the photo in 2009.

    Cristina is among the loveliest and brightest people  I know as well as one of the best cooks I have the pleasure to count among my friends. It’s always a joy to be in her house with her family and her food. Cristina comes from Emilia, Borgo Taro, specifically which is home to the mushroom. In fact some of the best meals I have had in Italy with mushrooms have been at their houses.

    We’ve been friends since 1998 and I went to my first Cantine Aperte  with them to Alba. I had my first Barolo from Oddero and my first Brasato al Barolo with Cri and Giuli, other moments that remain in my heart. Here in the Boggiali house in Rome in the incredible neighborhood of San Saba, I have rediscovered the joy of being with old friends once again and spending time with 2, 8 and 10 year olds and their passions. For years I have visited Cristina and Giuliano in Rome, in Milan, in Levanto, and in Gressoney. Always welcoming and generous, I also was first introduced to wines from the Valle d’Aosta, Donnas Blanc de Morgex et de la Salle ,   with them and the particular varieties from their area of Liguria, Levanto, wines I love from Colli di Luni.

    All of these wine and food discoveries have been part of the conversation and experience but never the main event, perhaps that is why I never realized just how many things they have introduced me to during the course of our long friendship. In just two days in Rome, I feel completely back to myself, my Italian life and of course more enamored than ever of this eternal city. Happy that I am just at the beginning of my trip, I may have to leave Rome soon otherwise my friends will have a guest “a vita.”

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    Filed under emilia romagna, Friends/Family, Italian Delicacies, Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian recipes, Italian regions, Italian Restaurants, Italian wineries, lazio, Liguria, Memorable Events, Piedmont, Sommeliers, Travel, Valle d'Aosta, wines