Posted by: tomciocco | December 19, 2011

“L’ENFER” IS A LOT BETTER NAME FOR A WINE THAN “HELL”

Despite being Italy’s smallest region, the archetypically alpine and French speaking Valle d’Aosta produces an almost  shocking 39 different and designated wines, red, white, and rose`. Most of these wines are made in a figurative string along the map dotting the floor of a high upland, roughly east/west-oriented valley. At the hamlet of Arvier, (whose vineyards’ average elevation is 2800 feet above sea level!) there is a deep and broad natural bowl in this undulating valley that traps the super intense solar heat that comes with this altitude, which, similar to its eponymously-named cousin Inferno in Valtellina , is called Enfer in the local parlance, and for the same reason too. The nighttime temperatures often plunge at these high elevations even in July and August, but the days’ roasting heat can ripen a bunch of grapes in a hurry.

This tiny, isolated region is home to an also suprising number of vine varieties, many of which are found only in Valle d’Aosta, and this wine’s cuvee` illustrates this pretty well: it’s mostly Petite Rouge, with small percentages of Mayolet, Pinot  Noir, Gamay, and Vien de Nus. Like most of the wine made in Valle d’Aosta, this wine is made in and by a co-op. The challenges of making wine on steep, high mountain vineyards are ones best met with lots of comrades…

I served this fairly burly and somewhat exotic red with a not strictly regional menu (not too much chamoix shows up in Jersey City), but rather more of Franco-Continental classic of Steak au poivre avec frites (hangar or skirt steak with a super black peppery cream, mustard, and shallot sauce with fried potatoes) and Boston lettuce and red cabbage salad.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coop. L’Enfer L’Enfer d’Arvier Valle D’Aosta 2010  

Barely opaque cloudy magenta color.  Fragrant nose of sour cherry, cardamom, pine sap, violet, and a slight gaminess. The palate has a velvety texture, in an elegant medium-weight, lean and muscular frame, holding easy-going and charmingly rustic flavors of sweet and sour plum butter and blueberry fruit, chalk, sweet roasted red peppers, and rosewater. The finish lingers long with dried cranberry fruit flavors.  

 

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