An article by: Levi Reiss
If you are looking for fine Italian wine and food, consider the Valle d’Aosta region of northern Italy. You may find a bargain, and I hope that you’ll have fun on this fact-filled wine education tour.
The Valle d’Aosta is a tiny corner of of northwestern Italy bordering on France and Switzerland. This valley is surrounded by high mountains, including Europe’s highest peak, Mount Blanc. This was arguably the last region of Italy to be populated, because it was covered with ice until relatively recently. Over time it was occupied by Celts, Romans, Ostrogoths, Byzantines, Lombards, and Franks.
It is bilingual, Italian and French. The Valle d’Aosta is by far the smallest region of Italy with a population of only 120 thousand.
Agriculture is not particularly important, with the exception of cattle raising. There is substantial forestry and some industry, in particular hydroelectric power. The region is one of the wealthiest in Italy, with a highly developed tourist sector.
This region has no single capital. The largest city is Aosta, with a population of about 35 thousand. It was a Roman garrison over two thousand years ago, and is the best example of Roman city planning in Italy. Among the Valle d’Aosta’s tourist attractions are the remains of a Roman amphitheater said to hold 20,000 spectators. Other tourist attractions include medieval fortresses and churches, the Matterhorn, and Mount Blanc.
The Valle d’Aosta devotes only fifteen hundred acres to grapevines, and ranks 20th among the 20 Italian regions. Its total annual wine production is about six hundred thousand gallons, also giving it a 20th place. About 90% of the wine production is red or rose’ (only a bit of rose’), leaving about 10% for white. The region produces a single DOC wine, that is divided into 23 categories. DOC stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata, which may be translated as Denomination of Controlled Origin. Almost 23% of this region’s wine carries the DOC. The Valle d’Aosta is home to almost three dozen major and secondary grape varieties, with somewhat more red than white varieties.
Chardonnay is the most important international white grape variety in the Valle d’Aosta. Muscat and Pinot Grigio (Pinot Gris) are also grown. Local white varieties include Blanc de Morgeux and Petite Arvine, also grown in Switzerland.
International red grape varieties grown in the Valle d’Aosta include Gamay, Grenache, Pinot Nero (Pinot Noir), and Syrah. Local red varieties include Picotendro (called Nebbiolo in neighboring Piedmont and arguably Italy’s finest red grape), Petit Rouge, and Fumin. In the unfortunate absence of any Valle d’Aosta wines, I am reviewing a DOCG Nebbiolo-based wine from neighboring Piedmont. If I am ever in the Valle d’Aosta, I promise to drink and review a few local wines.
Before reviewing the Valle d’Aosta-style wine and Italian cheese that I was lucky enough to purchase at a local wine store and a local Italian food store, here are a few suggestions of what to eat with indigenous wines when touring this beautiful region.
Start with Jambon de Bosses; Uncooked Ham. As the second course try Carro’ D’Agnello Gratinato Alle Erbe; Grilled Loin of Lamb in a Pastry and Herb Crust. For dessert indulge yourself with Crema alla Panna; Pannacotta from the Valle d’Aosta (a sort of creme caramel without eggs.)
About the Author
Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet, but to be honest, he would rather just drink fine Italian or other wine, accompanied by the right foods. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario French-language community college. His wine website is www.theworldwidewine.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.