The Valle d’Aosta is a deep valley that runs east to west, closed off just before the French border by some of the highest peaks in the Alps. Vineyards here are like little gardens clinging to steep south-facing mountainsides, where only a thin layer of sandy topsoil lines the hard granite bedrock. Abundant direct sun and cold nights amplify the aromatic expression of the local grapes while preserving zingy acidity, a recipe for delicate, perfumed wines that dance energetically across the palate. Sipping Feuillet’s Petite Arvine evokes the euphoria of running through a field of Alpine wildflowers—admittedly a cliché, until you feel the exacting mineral purity of this floral bianco wash over your senses.
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.
When buying red Burgundy, I think we should remember:
1. Big wines do not age better than light wine. 2. A so-called great vintage at the outset does not guarantee a great vintage for the duration. 3. A so-called off vintage at the outset does not mean the wines do not have a brilliant future ahead of them. 4. Red Burgundy should not taste like Guigal Côte-Rôtie, even if most wine writers wish it would. 5. Don’t follow leaders; watch yer parking meters.
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