Fumin is another compelling, yet extremely rare grape variety endemic to the Valle d’Aosta. From the very first deep purple splash, Château Feuillet’s rendition carries vivid wild berry notes of an almost startling vibrancy—it is simply bursting with juicy fresh fruit! With some air, subtle hints of stones, graphite, herbs, and smoke emerge, providing intrigue in addition to sheer pleasure. Heightened aromatics and tangy acidity betray its origins high in the Alps: Fumin truly is, as Feuillet’s vigneron Maurizio Fiorano puts it, “an age-old pearl of local enology.”
If Maurizio Fiorano became a vineyard owner by chance, he was lucky in the placement of his plots—he will humbly tell you that it’s not hard to make good wine here. The vines sit in shallow sandy soil, but their feet wriggle into crevices in the solid granite bedrock. The vineyards are planted on an ancient riverbed, where the Dora Baltea River cut through, creating the current river valley and leaving behind mineral deposits that the wines happily lap up. The trump card, however, may be high altitude and diurnal temperature shifts providing long hours of gentle sunlight. This gives the grapes a long, slow ripening season that in turn offers red wines with the heft of a sunny climate that are still refreshing and light.
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.
Trust the great winemakers, trust the great vineyards. Your wine merchant might even be trustworthy. In the long run, that vintage strip may be the least important guide to quality on your bottle of wine.—Kermit Lynch
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