New Wine Discoveries: Valle D’Aosta an Italian Alpine region on the rise
By Kerry Winslow
I love finding new places and stories in the world of wine, and Italy never fails to deliver new and interesting wines, places and peoples, considering there are some 300, 000 wine producers and close to 1,200 different grapes to make wine from in the country, which makes finding something new not all that difficult! Recently I tasted a few wines from the remote northwest corner of Italy from a tiny area known as Valle D’ Aosta that really impressed me, from a talented young winemaker.
The Aosta Valley is a mountainous semi-autonomous region in northwestern Italy that is one of the great secrets of the Wine World. It is bordered by Rhône-Alpes, France to the west, Valais, Switzerland to the north and the region of Piedmont, Italy to the south. This high altitude region, once ruled by France has lots of Alpine charm with a mix of French and Italy customs and charms, this applies to it’s people and it’s wines. This place has almost a lost in time feel and the grapes found here are for the most part indigenous and not found elsewhere, which makes these rare wines all that much more interesting and exciting. There are only a handful of artisan estates in this tiny region, with Les Cretes being the most famous internationally, and now with the help of famed importer Kermit Lynch a small family estate is hitting the world stage, Chateau Feuillet and their winemaker Maurizio Fiorano, who is making some fantastic and unique wines from his own plots that his wife inherited from her family.
Maurizio is originally from Turin, but his wife is a native, and he has been naturalized to the region and feels a strong bond to this place and the land, and he humbly says it is not hard to make great wine here, as his sites sit on shallow sandy soils with solid granite bedrock, all of which helps with drainage and gives the wines elegance while the elevation keeps lively acidity and the long hangtime helps with intensity of color and flavor development. Château Feuillet is already creating a buzz with the Kermit faithful and the wine geek world will soon follow, especially as these wines are not only extremely rare, the are remarkably delicious! Kermit Lynch released two reds of Chateau Feuillet’s wines, a Fumin (Fumin and a touch of Syrah) and a Tourrette (Made from the Petit Rouge and Mayolet grape.
Valle D’ Aoste has many great things going for it, a unique climate influenced by the Alps and the Mediterranean Sea, good exposure and hillside vineyards with good distressed soils, and many intriguing grapes including the mentioned Fumin, Petit Rouge and Mayolet, plus Gamay, Dolcetto, Nebbiolo, Pinot Noir, Syrah and lots of white grapes as well, with some of the best Chardonnay in Italy, Prié Blanc, Malvoisie, Müller-Thurgau, Petite Arvine, and Muscat to name but a few. I highly recommend checking out these wonderful and charming wines and the region too, it has a wealth of wonders.
2011 Chateau Feuillet, Fumin DOC Valle D’ Aosta, Italy.
This dark and intense red has a Gamay meets Syrah feel, in fact they blend about 10% Syrah with the native Fumin grape which adds color and spice, and maybe a little body, though my experience with Fumin makes me believe there is plenty of everything in it by it’s self, but still this wine’s charms and complexities certainly justify the choice of cepage here. I think Fumin will really catch on with a wide audience as it delivers deep flavors, unique personality, great color and still has that fresh acidity the modern wine geek is addicted to these days. The nose has floral notes, earthy loam, blue fruits and spices which lead to a firm taught palate of bramble berry, wild strawberry, plum and cassis with vibrant acidity and supple tannins that refined giving the perfect base for this wine to show it’s vigor and class. This wine is well defined and focused with loads of character showing the deft hand of this Artisan winemaker, Maurizio Fiorano who has made a stunningly crafted wine from the remote Valle D’ Aosta. While being all Italian and soulful, these wines have an almost French style about them, making for an interesting exploration and a few arguments I’m sure, but regardless this is a wine region to search out, it is the ultimate in cool!
($36 Est) 93 Points, grapelive
2011 Château Feuillet, Torrette DOC Valle D’ Aosta, Italy.
This spicy Valle D’ Aoste red is made up of mostly the native Petit Rouge and even rarer Maoylet grapes and is another gem from winemaker Maurizio Fiorano at Chateau Feuillet with bright cherry, strawberry and plum fruits plus fleshy red peach and savory spices and wild herb notes. Mineral and chalky essence add character in this medium weighted Alpine wine. While not as deep or dark as the Fumin, this wine shines with balance and raciness making it a suburb wine with lots of food choices from fish to smoked ham and or specialty risotto dishes. Peppery notes and tangy fruit linger on the crisp finish.
($26 Est.) 91-92 Points, grapelive