Italy’s tiny and isolated patch of Francophone Alpine territory (that it shares with Switzerland and France) is the country’s smallest region, but despite its diminutive size, Valle d’Aosta plays host to nearly forty distinct D.O.C.s made from a good score of vine varieties, about half of which are peculiar to Valle d’Aosta.
This sort of setting might lead one to think of quaint small family, or even solitary winemakers ladling wine from cantinas dug out from the limestone mountains. It’s an appealing image, but alas, it’s a false one. The reality is is that this place, despite its stunning beauty, is a bitch of a place to grow vines for wines. Except at harvest, it’s a cold place (many vines are trained onto heavy cement trellises to keep at least some of the vine above the thick snows) and the vineyards are sometimes terraced, but often are just hellaciously steep. So following the old adage that many hands make light(er) work, the lion’s share of the wine made here is made in small cooperative (GASP!) cellars that allows the growers to pool their risk and just plain old help each other out…
This wine, from the microscopically small Arnad-Montjovet appellation, is a blend of three parts Nebbiolo (which though native to neighboring Piedmont, has been grown in Valle d’Aosta for centuries) with the remaining quarter divided about equally among the deliciously local varieties of Gros Vien, Neyret, Cornalin, and Fumin. Bottom line, this is a “real” wine in that it properly tastes just like what it is: a well made, blue collar wine produced from noble and even exotic grapes, in an almost pristine, and thoroughly unique terroir.
I served this Alpine beauty with a classic first course from Valle d’Aosta called Seupa a laValpellinentze, which is a “dry”, terrined soup made of layers of whole wheat bread, Savoy cabbage, and Fontina Valdostana, spiced with nutmeg and cinnamon, and then soaked with beef broth and baked. The main course were thin-cut and pounded chicken breasts rolled with mortadella, sage, thyme, and chives, browned and then oven-roasted, and a sort of egg and zucchini galette as side dish.
La Kiuva Arnad-Monjovet 2008
Slighty rosy, dusty garnet color. Expressively rustic nose of cherry juice, grape jelly, violet, chalk, pine sap, and just a touch of barnyard. The medium body immediately shows an impressive balance and fine and supple but firm structure that frames flavors of boysenberry, plum, black walnuts, and mocha. Long, warm, balsamically tinged finish.