Bottle Roundup, Two Nebbiolo-based Wines with Varietal Character and Complexity, Reco’s at a Glance

bottle-round-up-fay-caves-de-donnas-may-2013Left to Right:

Caves de Donnas DONNAS – 90% Nebbiolo grapes (Picotendro), 10% Freisa and Neyret. Valle D’Aosta. $$

Sandro Fay Rosso di Valtellina – 90% Nebbiolo (Chiavennasca), 10% Merlot, Brugnola, Rossola, Pignola. Lombardia Valtellina. $

A Mountain Red from Italy’s Vallée d’Aosta: La Kiuva Arnad Montjovet 2010

A Mountain Red from Italy’s Vallée d’Aosta: La Kiuva Arnad Monjovet 2010

Good things, they say, come in small packages.

Italy’s smallest wine region, Vallée d’Aosta, presents no exception: I find gem after wine gem from this region that is neatly tucked away in Italy’s northwest corner where Europe’s highest peaks – Monte Rosa, the Matterhorn, Mont Blanc and the Gran Paradiso – dominate the skyline.

la-kiuva-arnad-montjovet-2010Let’s pause here for a moment, just long enough for me to offer you what you can consider a New Year recommendation. No, I will not recommend you a particular bottle of wine. That would be too easy. My New Year recommendation for you is this: place the region of Vallée d’Aosta squarely on your wine radar. And then, do everything you can do to taste and explore Vallée d’Aosta wines. 2013 will be a better year for your effort 🙂

OK, we continue: With its cold winters, cool summers and ventilating winds running down from the mountaintops, the region of Vallée d’Aosta is naturally inclined to vine cultivation without obligation to entertain excessive pesticide interventions.

The DOC of Arnad Montjovet takes its name from a pair of villages in Vallée d’Aosta. In these parts, the local clone of Nebbiolo, known as Picotendro, yields small bunches of smallish, ripe grapes well-suited to the region’s climate. Able to mature well there, they confer dimensions of intense fruit and depth to the local wines.

Founded in 1975, the La Kiuva Cooperative includes approximately 60 growers working 25 or so hectares of vineyards. Near as I can tell, yearly production comes in at somewhere between 70-90K bottles. The Cooperative has a reputation of producing wines of exceptionally high quality.

La Kiuva Arnad Montjovet is produced from at least 70% Nebbiolo with the addition of other permitted local grapes including Gros Vien, Neyret, Cornalin and Fumin. Sandy soils of the area are of glacial origin. The wine is aged for eight months, two-thirds of which it spends in steel, one-third in wooden barrels, followed by an additional six months in bottle.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

Bright cherry-red fruit with an attractively moody underside, impressions of roses, saddle leather and spice. Smooth in the mouth with fine, grippy tannins, bracing acidity, hints of citrus peel and almond on the finish. Differs from Barbaresco or Barolo in that it is lighter, fresher, yet still maintains that haunting essence of Nebbiolo.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

This is a super-talented wine at table: I wouldn’t hesitate to pair it with most meat dishes ranging from a bison burger covered with caramelized onions and melted Fontina d’Aosta to roast beef served with horseradish sauce. I would also find this wine a good partner for dishes featuring cheese or cream sauces – to be tucked away on a cold night with a good movie, authentic fondue and a bottle of La Kiuva Arnad Montjovet would not be a bad evening. The wine will also do well with rich fish entrees such as salmon with butter sauce. Vegetarians might consider marrying the wine’s “moody” side with the earthy tones of a mushroom risotto or a cheese-y root vegetable casserole.

PS – A warm thank you to a special friend for a great bottle of wine.

Frères Grosjean Petite Arvine 2008

Frères Grosjean Petite Arvine 2008

grosjean-petite-arvine-2008This past year, I have many times found myself reaching for the unique and unpretentious wines of Italy’s Valle d’Aosta. One Valle d’Aosta producer whose bottles I am always happy to encounter on the retail shelf is Frères Grosjean, exactly because I know I am in for just such a treat.

Tasting Notes:

Frères Grosjean’s Petite Arvine 2008 filled me with emotional impressions of nature unspoiled, of grassy meadows, mountain streams and wild herbs. A nostalgic finish brought to mind thoughts of home and bowls of sliced pears covered with honey and crushed almonds.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

I enjoyed this wonderful bottle with family members as we ate slices of prosciutto and Emmenthaler cheese, followed by herbed chicken sausages, good potato salad and mango barley salsa.

When pairing this wine with food, I recommend playing to its rich and complex palate, bright minerality and citrus notes.

You can read more about Frères Grosjean on Vintrospective here

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Danilo Thomain Enfer D’Arvier 2008

Danilo Thomain Enfer D’Arvier 2008

I lay out loden-green woolen trousers and shirt, purchased at a second-hand shop. In the corner, carbon fiber hiking poles stand ready.

Backpack: Emmenthaler cheese; mountain bread; prosciutto di San Daniele; mineral water; Danilo Thomain Enfer d’Arvier 2008.

Word of the day: Up. Up, until the trees are below and the view opens to 50 clear miles in every direction. Sunny now. Stop: time for lunch.

danilo-thomain-enfer-darvier-2008Luckily, this wonderfully refreshing red, produced by Danilo Thomain from a tiny production area near Avier in Italy’s Vallee D’Aoste, is just as refreshing at table – or on the sofa – as it is on a good day of hiking 😉

The French word Enfer, or Hell, translates here as Hell of Arvier, referring to the area’s high solar exposure and intense summer heat trapped by mountain peaks.

Made from Petit Rouge, this high altitude red won me over with its spicy, sporting freshness. Lovers of Beaujolais are certain to appreciate this one.

Tasting Notes / Impresssions:

Medium ruby with purple highlights. Bright, clear, essential aromas of mixed berries, bracing scents of floral rose and spice. Honest and uncomplicated on the palate, the wine is round and velvety-soft in the mouth, good body. Hints of medicinal mountain herb on the finish. Exhilarating and delicious.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

Meats: chicken, turkey, duck, veal; cured meats; try thin, pan-fried veal cutlet topped with melted Fontina cheese; Stews: try a hearty bread stew layered with shredded cabbage, ham, and Fontina cheese. Polenta: in casserole with cabbage, carrots and pork, served with butter and Parmigiano; Vegetarian: Alpine fondue; bread and cheese soup; spinach and rice soup, broth enriched with egg; Cheeses: Fontina, Emmenthaler, Appenzeller

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Pavese Ermes Blanc de Morgex et de la Salle 2008

Pavese Ermes Blanc de Morgex et de la Salle 2008, DOC

Liquid…is a substance that flows and takes on the form of its container.*

The liquid known as Pavese Ermes Blanc de Morgex et de la Salle flows through my senses. Smooth-spoken and talkative, it tells a mountain story, buzzing through my human form with impressions of nature’s purity, mountain air, alpine flowers, and a brightness one finds in the quality of light at higher altitudes.

pavese-ermes-blanc-de-morgex-et-de-la-salle-2008In the high Alps, beneath where Mount Blanc casts its shadow, Ermes Pavese produces his wines in the commune of La Ruine near the town of Morgex in Italy’s Vallée D’Aoste. Working less than two hectares planted only to Prié Blanc, aka Blanc de Morgex et de la Salle, Pavese produces three wines: the Blanc vinified in steel, its barrel-aged version, and a sweet wine from made from late harvest grapes. A young winery established only in 1999, Pavese’s first vintage was released in 2005.

Pavese Ermes Blanc de Morgex et de la Salle 2008 is made of 100% Prié Blanc from high altitude [ 1200m ] vineyards. Reportedly, the high elevation had provided vines protection from Phylloxera: vines are not of American root stock.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

Translucent, luminescent pale yellow-gold highlighted with overtones of granny apple green. Massively fresh nose of apples, lemon balm, grass and floral tones. A light and super clean mouth with wonderfully crisp acidity and laser focus minerality. The wine reflects the elegance of nature and the beguilingly subtle contradiction that is simple complexity. Good grip and length on a pleasingly tart finish. Modest 12% alcohol.

Food pairing suggestions:

Delicate white fish, especially baked trout; Spaezle, perhaps seasoned with mountain herbs; Knödel (dumplings) served with chicken gravy; Fontina fondue; Quiche; French-style jambon / ham, prosciutto; Cheese course/s, especially Fontina, Robiola, Brie. For a more eclectic table, this wine is a natural with delicate Japanese maki (cut rolls) and sushi, as well as courses of Chinese-style emerald green vegetables such as bok choy, summer “melon”, Chinese broccoli.

* from Thesaurus.com, liquid

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Frères Grosjean: Message in a Valle d’Aosta Bottle

In an area that is one of Italy’s least productive wine zones, to improve margins with a few shortcuts could prove a seductive temptation.

grosjean-pinot-noir-07-valle-daosta-message-in-a-bottleBut, at the small, family-run wine estate of Frères Grosjean in Italy’s Valle d’Aosta, it is quality, tradition, authenticity and sustainability which prevail.

Amen.

Perched in the higher altitudes of Italy’s extreme northwest nearby the villages of Quart and Saint Christophe, Frères Grosjean is located in the Valle Centrale region of Valle d’Aosta DOC. Before they began bottling their wines for sale, the family made wine and gathered chestnuts for more practical reasons: to help them through the long winters.

It was an exhibition of Valle d’Aosta wines in 1969 which prompted Dauphin Grosjean to bottle wines for presentation to others, an initiative that proved to be a cornerstone event of the business. With the help of five children, the Grosjean vineyards have grown over the years from 3,000 square meters to 7 hectares. Demonstrating a deep concern for the natural environment, the Grosjean have farmed since 1975 using environmentally sustainable cultivation techniques and using only organic fertilizers.

I recently enjoyed a bottle of Frères Grosjean’s Pinot Noir and one of Gamay, impressive as terroir-driven examples from a DOC too often overlooked. Each wine is 100% varietal grown in loose glacial moraine soil. Vineyards have a south / southwest exposure at an altitude of approximately 700m.

Both wines showed very perfumed floral characteristics and good concentration of fruit underscored by lively acidity and soft tannins. You’re likely to find the Gamay a bit lighter in style than the Pinot Noir and subtleties in each wine that will keep your interest.

Either of these wines will pair nicely with simple, earthy dishes such as pasta, soups, stews, cheeses, cured meats. Don’t miss pairing with a bit of Fontina d’Aosta cheese – sublime.

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