If the Torrette is the juicy, exuberant, easy-to-like introduction to the intimidating Aosta Valley, Cornalin is the slightly more complex, wily actor that doesn’t reveal its secrets quite as easily or quickly. Torrette welcomes you and reels you in immediately, and Cornalin keeps you intrigued. Maurizio’s is sweetly spiced and ample-bodied, with wild plums, soft tannins, and a bitter almond finish.
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.
I want you to realize once and for all: Even the winemaker does not know what aging is going to do to a new vintage; Robert Parker does not know; I do not know. We all make educated (hopefully) guesses about what the future will bring, but guesses they are. And one of the pleasures of a wine cellar is the opportunity it provides for you to witness the evolution of your various selections. Living wines have ups and downs just as people do, periods of glory and dog days, too. If wine did not remind me of real life, I would not care about it so much.
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