|Region||Sub-Region||Variety Nomenclature||Planting Size (ha)|
|Alta Piemonte||Gattinara, Ghemme +||Spanna||
|Valle d’Aosta||Donnaz, Arnand-Montjovet||Picotendro||25***|
In my most recent post, I described Valtellina, the Lombardy sub-region that is home to Chiavennasca. In this post I cover Valle d'Aosta, where Nebbiolo is called Picotendro.
Valle d'Aosta (Vallée d"Aoste in French), is a semi-autonomous region in northwest Italy which is bounded to the north, west, and south by the Alps and shares borders with both France and Switzerland. Reflecting its location, and its cultural history and linkages, it is officially bi-lingual. It was inhabited by an ancient people called the Salassi before it was annexed by the Romans in 25 BC. In more recent times, it was helmed by the French House of Savoy before joining the Kingdom of Italy in 1861.
|Valle d'Aosta (Source: travelling italy.info)|
The Valle d'Aosta geography is simple: high, steep slopes rising from the river valleys. Vineyard soils are composed of rocky, gritty mixtures of primarily sand and broken rocks at the higher levels and alluvial sediments of clay and gravel further down the slopes.
The principal wine-growing areas are found along the eastern bank of the Dora Baltea River with a total of 253 ha (625 acres) devoted to vineyards. The highest vineyards are located in the foothills of Mont Blanc at 1300 meters elevation, the highest vineyards in Europe. The vines are trained on low pergolas (Pergola bassa) in trellised arbors with stone columns surrounded by stone walls. This arrangement helps to protect the vines from wind and heavy snowfall but also allows the vines to benefit from heat which had accumulated in the ground during the course of the day, thus mitigating the diurnal flux.
The wines have never attained the highest quality (Diego Meraviglia), being low in tannin, body, and color as a result of the poor soil. Ripeness and alcohol levels are adequate however, due to ready access to sunlight. The Donnas sub-region was first awarded DOC status in 1971, followed closely by Enfer d' Arvier. Awarding of additional DOCs was halted until 1986 when the decision was made to consolidate all of the region's quality wines under a single DOC -- Valle d"Aosta.
The wines in the region are primarily varietal and, keeping with the bi-lingual character of the region, are labeled Valle d"Aosta/Vallée d'Aoste plus the name of the varietal (85% of the varietal required). The wines are mostly blends of fruit from all over the region. The region has seven subgroups, each of which is allowed to place its name on the label. The varieties grown in the area and the wines of the subzones are shown in the tables below.
|White Grapes||Red Grapes|
|Prié Blanc||Picotendro (Nebbiolo)|
|Vien de Nus|
|Arnand-Montjovet||Red||Picotendro (Min.70%), Dolcetto, Pinot Nero, Neyret, Freisa, Vien de Nus||5 months; 12 most for Superiore|
|Blanc de Morgex et La Salle||White||Prié Blanc||5 months|
|Chambave||Red||Min 70% Petit Rouge, Dolcetto, Gamay, Fumin, Pinot Noir||5 months|
|White (Dry, Sweet)||Moscato Bianco|
|Donnaz||Red||Picotendro (min 85%), Petit Rouge, Fumin, Freisa, Neyret||24 months; Superiore 36 mos|
|Enfer d’ Arvier||Red||Petit Rouge (85%), Vien de Nus, Neyret, Dolcetta, Pinot Noir, Gamay||5 mos|
|Nus||Red||Vien de Nus (50%), Petiti Rouge (30%), other authorized||5 mos; Superiore 8 mos|
|White (Dry, Sweet)||Nus Malvoisie, Pinot Grigio|
|Torrette||Red||Petit Rouge (20%), Pinot Noir, Gamay, Fumin, Vien de Nus, Dolcetto, Majolet, Prematta||5 mos; Superiore 8 mos|
As shown in the table above, Picotendro is produced in the Donnaz and Arnand-Montjovet sub-zones. The Donnaz Picotendro has a higher percentage of the core varietal, and fewer potential blending partners, than does the other. Picotendro is grown close to the border with Piemonte and is not dissimilar to Chiavennasca (Valtellina) in that it is light, delicate, and aromatic with minimal structure and tannin.
Beyond Picontendro, another well-regarded wine is VDA Blanc de Morgex et La Salle. This white wine is made from Prié Blanc grapes grown on south-facing slopes between the municipalities of Morgex and La Salle. The vines grow ungrafted as no Phylloxera attacks have occurred in that specific zone. These wines have good minerality and acidity.
Wine production is primarily by Coop, with the fruits sourced from member growers. A limited number of growers produce their own wine for the market. Annual production is approximately 330,000 cases of which 30,000 is DOC.
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