Wines of the Aosta Valley

Written by on October 6, 2020 in Gastronomy

View of the vinery in the Aosta Valley

Quality rather than Quantity

The Aosta Valley produces some excellent wine. However the Region is not a big exporter which explains why its wines are not well known abroad.

Due to the limited production and the fact that 95% of it is of DOC quality, the Aosta Valley is not a notable producer of cheap wines. In my experience, you need to be spending at least Euro 10 a bottle to fully enjoy it. Actually more like Euro 15-20. If your budget can stretch this far you will be rewarded with some truly interesting and rewarding drinking. Especially when combined with local foods, enjoyed in one of the many excellent bars and restaurants offering a traditional mountain ambience.

Being an Alpine area with little flat land available, vineyards are mostly small parcels or terraces where the scope for mechanization is limited. Grape growing around here is painstaking work. 67% of winegrowers have less than 0.2 hectares. Most estates produce less than 10,000 bottles per year.

Micro-Climate

On the other hand, the local micro-climate is surprisingly well suited to wine growing. Predominantly dry winds, loads of sunshine and very little rain. The Aosta Valley is dryer than Sardinia for example.

Furthermore, the mountainous terrain creates a huge variety of different shade and altitude combinations. Almost to the extent that no two vineyards are the same. This all makes learning about and drinking Aosta Valley wines a very rewarding experience.

sweat dessert wine from grapes harvested late

Vines & Wines

The Romans introduced wine growing to the area. Then in Medieval times, the Aosta Valley exported its wines to Switzerland and throughout Savoia.

There are a currently just 463 hectares under vine in the Aosta Valley Region. But that figure was 3000 hectares before phylloxera struck at beginning of 20th century.

Vines here grow from 350m – 1200m altitude, 350m being the valley floor of the Dora Baltea river. Some of the grapes from the Morgex & La Salle area are amongst those grown at the highest altitude in Europe. Such as those used to make Chaudelune or Ice Wine, a dessert wine made from grapes that are picked in late Autumn, at night when they are frozen.

The Aosta Valley produces between 16,800 and 22,000 hectoliters of wine per year. By way of comparison, Tuscany produces around 400,000 hectoliters of Chianti Classico alone.

301 hectares out of the total 463 hectares of land under vines have the DOC designation (Denominazione di Origine Controllata).

The Aosta Valley DOC comprises 7 areas;

  • Blanc de Morgex & La Salle
  • L’Enfer d’Arvier & Torrette (around Aosta),
  • Il Nus,
  • Il Chambave (around Chatillon & St Vincent),
  • L’Arnad Montjovet (around Verres & Arnad)
  • Donnas (just before Pont St Martin).

The most widely grown grape variety in the Aosta Valley is Petit Rouge, covering 74 hectares. You will find it mostly in the L’Enfer d’Arvier and Torrette areas. Other red wine grapes cultivated in the Valley include Nebbiolo, Pinot Noir, Gamay, Syrah, Fumin, Cornalin (very close to Petit rouge), Mayolet, Vien de Nus and Vuillermin.

Prie Blanc is the most planted white wine grape, covering 29 hectares. Its main area of cultivation is the Morgex & La Salle area. Other white wine grapes are Petite Arvine, Chardonnay, Muller Thurgau, Moscato and Pinot Grigio.

In Vino veritas

A Very Good Year

Over the last 10 years, there has been a great improvement in quality and also an increase in the quantity of Aosta Valley wines.

Of recent vintages, 2016 was an especially good year. 2017 was a disaster due to freezing temperatures. 2018 was good. 2015 was not too bad. 2014 was OK, better than rest of Italy in a difficult year. 2013 was also good.

Route des Vins

A great way for visitors to get to know the area is to do some tasting and buy some wine on the Aosta Valley’s 5 official wine routes. They are set out on www.routedesvinsvda.it. As well as wine, these itineraries will also bring you into contact with excellent local food producers and traditional artisans.

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