Why I am obsessed with Valle d’Aosta.
It is literally “Vin de Montblanc” as you will notice on the labels of Cave Mont Blanc Morgex. It is the fact of its remote alpine location that encapsulates a number of the following reasons this region is awesome.
Phylloxera. Many of the vineyards are so high up that the insipid vine louse could not ever (and from my understanding have not ever) get to these awesome vines.
Valle d’Aosta is a treasure trove of weirdly named indigenous grapes. Petit Rouge, Vien de Nus, Neyret, Fumin, and Prie Blanc. Often in blends and grown side by side with other better known grapes as well.
Franco – Italian – Swiss convergence.
This region has literally been a mountain pass bottleneck between the French and Italian crossroads. There are Francophone households, and had a few decisive wars gone the opposite way it, we would be reading articles on the unique Alpine wines of France. Better this way though! Though Mussolini singlehandedly destroyed the once integral cider production because he felt it was not Italian. What I am getting at is that the convergence of influences has brought Pinot Noir, Gamay, Chardonnay, Nus Malvoisie (Pinot Gris), the Bordeaux gang, and even Grenache! Of course, due to VDA being almost always politically adjoined to Piedmont, the range of Italian varieties are well represented. For example, it is not uncommon to find Picotendro (Nebbiolo), Freisa, and Dolcetto blended with the indigenous bunch. The dry moscatos are to die for. At this point mentioning that the Swiss Petite Arvine also calls VDA home should be no surprise. Ohh and they have some Muller-Thurgau for good measure!
As can be surmised, in a region like this, horizontal land comes at a premium. I remember reading about how after long fights, certain ecclesiastical vineyard holdings had to be turned into a cemetery. There simply was no where else. Simply put, there is not even the opportunity to have flatlands to churn out bulk wine or endorse vine monoculture. What land one has, at least in theory, is probably looked after closely. Among that, there has to be quite an array of micro-climates too, furthering the ability to nurture the vast array of grapes.
One of my favorite spirits. Though it is not exclusively a Valdostan product, it is sort of the spiritual homeland of it. Link to the Genepi article.
*The Grenache was from a Lieu-dit where executions formerly took place. It is stories like this that make VDA a magical region.