When: 5:30 p.m. on a Friday. Hottest summer on the books since ’03. Where: Ground floor of a well-insulated and poorly ventilated townhouse, Beaune, Côte d’Or, Burgundy. Problem: Fan not working, brain boiling, bad attitude. Flies. Solution: This sweating bottle of high-altitude Petite Arvine. Simple yet refined, it harks to its lofty upbringing in the Italo-Swiss Alps, where the grapes grow on striated parcels of stark granite cliffs at 2,600 feet. My glass opened to zingy minerality, fleshed out with summer melon and stone fruit. I could swear I felt an impossible breeze descend from Mont Blanc, and the fan began to whir... –Katie Dodds
Italy’s smallest region by surface area and by annual production, Valle d’Aosta is also one of its most strikingly beautiful. In the heart of the Alps bordering France and Switzerland, this is a stark landscape dominated by jagged, snow-capped peaks, where tiny terraced vineyard parcels cling to steep, rocky slopes of sand and alluvial deposits. Winemaking here dates back to Roman times, and today a growing number of small-scale producers persist with the heroic kind of viticulture required to brave this extreme terrain.
In the shadow of the Mont Blanc, the Valle d’Aosta runs west to east, providing excellent southern exposure to the vineyards on its northern slopes. In spite of the altitude—these are some of Europe’s highest vineyards—the hot, dry summers provide conditions in which a number of indigenous varieties, along with others of French or Swiss origin, truly thrive. Petite Arvine, Prié Blanc, Petit Rouge, Fumin, and Cornalin are just a few of the grapes responsible for the region’s whites and reds, which range from bright juicy, aromatic, and mineral-driven to powerful and rustic in character.
Château Feuillet represents our first Valle d’Aosta import. With its singular wines from an absolutely breathtaking environment, it is certainly a region to get excited about.
For the wines that I buy I insist that the winemaker leave them whole, intact. I go into the cellars now and select specific barrels or cuvées, and I request that they be bottled without stripping them with filters or other devices. This means that many of our wines will arrive with a smudge of sediment and will throw a more important deposit as time goes by, It also means the wine will taste better.
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