When you think of the wines of Northern Italy, Valle D’Aosta may not be the first thought for your average wine drinker. To be quite frank, it may not even be a thought at all. Yet, tucked away in the northwestern most part of Italy, crammed between Switzerland & France, is this tiny, mountainous grape growing region that produces some of Italy’s most esoteric, charming & rustic wines. These wines may be hard to find as the Valle D’Aosta (as of 2018) produces at most around 22,000 hectoliters of wine annually, and if that reads like a lot Piemonte, a neighbor in the north, produces over 2.2 million hectoliters of wine yearly, and that still doesn’t crack Italy’s top 5 wine producing regions. In fact, Valle D’Aosta produces the least amount of wine for any of Italy’s wine making regions. What they lack in production they make up for in character. Producing wines from indigenous and underused varietals like Fumin, Petit Rouge, Vien de Nus & Cornalin amongst others, winemakers of the Valle create distinct and terroir driven wines of elegance & rusticity.
One of our favorite producers from the Valle D’Aosta is Giulio Moriondo of ViniRari. Directly translating to ‘Rare Wines’ ViniRari is essentially a one man show of a winery creating thoughtful, philosophic and ethereal juice primarily out of native and regional grapes. Moriondo, a professor and passionate winemaker takes a mental approach to crafting his wines. Moriondo says “The cultivation of vines and the production of small quantities of wine is a passion that, while fatiguing my body, allows me to relax my mind, freeing it from the toxins that accumulate daily.” After drinking a couple of his “rare” wines, I must humbly thank him for sacrificing his body for the sake of both of our minds. Same as the Fumin he grows, Giulio is also a native of Aosta and he showcases that proudly and profoundly in every bottle. His wines see native yeast fermentation, long macerations and little to no sulfites at bottling. They embody the love of his terroir, the regional pride and clearly convey that every drop of these bottles were forged from hard work and pure passion. Giulio’s vineyards total 1 hectare and are spread out through many parcels across his hometown. The vines he owns and operates grow an assortment of indigenous and/or rare alpine grapes such as Fumin, Cornalin, Petit Rouge, Vien de Nus, Nebbiolo and also some pesky Pinot Noir, vines that he is actively re-grafting to grow more Petit Rouge; because in his own words “This is not Burgundy…”
Giulio Moriondo has made it his mission to express his terroir through the grapes that had been grown by generations before him. Although he uses minimal technology and no chemicals to cultivate and vinify his grapes he rigorously studied and even used DNA tests to recognize and replant the correct grapes of his native land. Giulio has spent years collecting and re-grafting vines with about 20 clones of the indigenous grape Petit Rouge. In some respects he is like the owner, operator and curator of a living and breathing museum of Valle D’Aosta viticulture that continues to produce juice from these rare and diligently tended to grapes. The man quite literally wrote the book on the wines of Valle D’Aosta…for fun. His passion for the heritage of his hometown wine is as rare as the grapes he grows that go into the bottle. With such minuscule production none of these wines can be taken for granted. Moriondo believes his wines take some time to develop, around 4-5 years but doesn’t have the space to properly cellar them himself. Luckily, we’ve got a few bottles stashed that have developed into two truly ethereal wines that are absolutely perfect for fall.
Vinirari Vino Rosso “Bàlteo” – 85% Fumin 15% Cornalin 2014 – 649 bottles produced.
A beauty of a wine. A bouquet of lush berries, forest floor, decaying violets with an uplifting alpine freshness. The wine has a medium body, mellow acids, and rustic, dusty tannins. Berry compote, earthy and floral flavors. While the palate is concise and complex and visually the wine is a little hazy, the wine itself is in no way inky or overbearing. It’s immensely expressive without being domineering. Perfect for fall weather and roasted red meats or juicy enough for a special turkey day bottle.
*Best served in a Burgundy Glass
ViniRari – Vino Rosso “Monfrere” – Petit Rouge, Cornalin, Fumin & Nebbiolo – 2013
Giulio Moriondo had a very challenging 2013. The vintage was rough and he was only able to make one wine, the ‘Monfrere’ – which translates to ‘my brother’. Giulio’s brother had passed away that year. So to say this is a wine special to Moriondo would be an understatement as it has never been made again. A rare wine of rare wines. This wine showcased lovely aromas of cherries and fresh earth. Way more lean than the “Balteo” the earthiness here was like a freshly stepped on twig, a mountainous minerality, touches of leather and more rose than violet. The tannins were sturdier and the acids sharper. Overall, a bit more pinpoint flavor and aroma wise yet still comforting and rustic. Nothing flashy about this wine, just extremely welcoming yet complex. A wine to be shared with someone special that can accompany a range of dishes – can stand up to a steak but would slay with lamb, short rib ragu, or even just good cheese and conversation.
*Best served in a Burgundy Glass