Alpine Beauty: The Wines of Valle d’Aosta

Viticulture is heroic on the steep Alpine vineyards in Valle d’Aosta. The result: terroir-driven wines that pulsate with minerality and energy.

There aren’t a lot of regions in the world that remain undiscovered, especially in the Old World. Tucked between Italy and Switzerland, Valle d’Aosta remains largely unknown outside a small circle of enthusiasts. If it weren’t for my frequent trips in northern Italy when I worked in finance I might have never seen the extraordinary vineyards that dot these picturesque hillside towns. Over the last few years in particular the wines have come on strong. I am not sure if that is because warmer growing seasons have made these wines – most of which emerge from steep, high-altitude sites – much more appealing than in the past, or whether a search for distinctive yet affordable bottles has simply led wine lovers to pay more attention to the region, but the simple fact is that the Valle d'Aosta is one of the most exciting, emerging appellations in Italy today.

Les Crêtes, Valle d'Aosta

Getting a handle on Valle d’Aosta does require a little bit of work – fun, I promise – as most of the grape varieties are not seen elsewhere. Fumin often presents Syrah-like dark fruit and meaty notes, Mayolet is softer and more fruit driven, while Petit Rouge can be made in a variety of styles, but usually found in the blends of Chambave and Nus. Among more familiar red varieties, readers will see Gamay and Nebbiolo but they, too, are most often blended with other grapes. Prie Blanc is a distinctive white grape that yields tense wines, while Moscato and Chardonnay are also found, but are less common.

One of the most distinctive aspects of Valle d’Aosta is that many of the leading producers are cooperatives. Prices remain incredibly consumer friendly, especially at the entry-level, where the best wines are delicious and also terrific values. Best of all, Valle d’Aosta whites and reds are fabulous at the dinner table, where their mineral-driven personalities are at home with a wide range of foods.

- Antonio Galloni