ViniRari – Drinkable Diamonds In The Valle D’Aosta

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

Debuting Armenian Wines

Armenia is a small country bordered by Turkey, Iran, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. While Georgia is well-known for their skin contact wines, Armenia doesn’t quite have the same reputation. But we think that’s changing as we have been excited to introduce the first wines from Armenia here in Brooklyn. Both of the wines – one a red and the other an orange – surprised us with their finesse. Though robust, they are designed to appeal to an array of curious palettes. That’s why we decided to feature them for this week’s wine tasting.

ASRLLC, L. 2018-021

ASRLLC, L. 2018-021

Though the name of this wine sounds a bit more NASA than it does Armenian, do not understand Aaron Rawlins commitment to the region after he left the US at age 18. Made using 100% Sev Areni, the prized red grape for the country, this wine features a nose of dried red fruits and florals, with rich cherry and raspberry notes into the palette. With hints of earth and leather, it does not become too tannic, however. There is some grip but it is well balanced by acid, making this medium-bodied wine a much cheaper sip of what a natural Burgundy-like vintage can reveal.

As we move into fall, it’d be great with stews and other hearty fare. But it is lithe enough that drinking on its own would not feel stodgy or unpleasant.

Trinity Canyon, Ancestors Voskehat (2018)

Trinity Canyon, Ancestors Voskehat (2018)

Outside of Armenia, Voskehat is a particularly unheard of grape varietal but inside the country his white varietal is considered the crown jewel of the country. Often produced as a skin contact wine, it’s obviously the perfect choice to pick for Orange Wine Week. But it’s also a unique example of how a long maceration on the skins yield a sturdy but quite fruit forward and delicate wine on the skin contact spectrum.

Quite a deep orange color, the wine is dominated by sweet apricot notes and dried apricots notes on the palette that become better integrated as it opens up. There are some tannic wisps that factor in but the wine is not particularly vegetal or harsh. Instead, it manages to exude a balanced acidity and some pleasant grassy notes that showcase a softer side of skin contact wines.

If you’re looking for another example of approachable orange wines, we can’t recommend the Austrian Christina, Chardonnay (2018) enough.

Division, Les Petits Fers (2019)

Division, Les Petits Fers (2019)

If you’ve read any of our recent blog posts, you can probably tell that we love Division Winemaking Company. And it’s hard not to see why: it a challenge to find really delicious Oregon wines for under $30 that embody some contemporary French winemaking techniques. While their Pinot Noir in carbonic maceration showcased the dusty, earthy, deep fruits, their Les Petits Fers is the perfect embodiment of Gamay, served chilled.

We are particularly in love with the nose on this one, with peppery and thyme notes providing an intoxicating herbal aroma. On the palette, this is all about the juicy cranberry fruit with a smattering of fresh herbs and mineral structure to really lengthen the wine and provide depth. But this is truly the perfectly quaffable red, whether in the comfort of outdoor fire pit or with a Neapolitan pizza. It’s really hard to go wrong with this one!

Until next time, happy sipping! We can’t wait to share the return of our beloved Loire producer François Saint-Lô.

Orange? Red? Something Else?

The past week has been a bit of rollercoaster on account of the political news but we’ve managed to find a little bit of solace in a disconnected but delicious trio of wines. While it’s great to have a focused tasting, sometimes it’s better to just let your imagination run wild, searching for wines that you’ve never had before that really open up the mind for intrigue. This is where we landed this week.

The first wine, an orange from Slovakia, is probably the most conventional of the bunch, fruit forward and approachable. A Carbonic Pinot Noir from Oregon shape shifts under a chill or at cellar temperature while Es d’Aqui’s “All In Wine” blends four red grapes and one white grape (!) into a lithe but dense package. We might not drink any of these wines on a regular basis but they end up being perfect fodder for what we can drink next.

Slobodne, Oranžista (2018)

Slobodne, Oranžista (2018)

Anyhing Pinot Gris is sure to be fun but Agnes Lovecka & Mišo Kuropka bring a new level of care to this Slovakian skin contact version. Though it veers toward the lighter end of what a skin contact wine can be, do not mistake this electric orange color for something simple. Tannic and barnyard notes intermingle on the nose but the palette is decidedly more refreshing with juicy apricot and orange notes, herbaceous fresh fig characteristics, and a hint of tannic grip. This is the kind of wine that is truly mouthwatering in the sense that we had one sip and instantly needed another.

Though we are unfortunately sold out of this for now, we do have another Slovakian wine available from Strekov 1075 in Nigori (2017). It’s much more adventurous than Slobodne’s offering but it perfectly showcases what this country can produce.

Division, Pinot Noir Méthode Carbonique (2019)

Division, Pinot Noir Méthode Carbonique (2019)

For the second bottle we decided to return stateside to the same winery we reviewed in the previous week. When you think of Oregon, Pinot Noir is probably one of the first grapes you think of. But relatively few wineries make this via Carbonic Maceration as opposed to Gamay. Division, however, has always wanted to champion wine experiments at affordable prices and they have succeeded in a big way here.

The best part about this wine lies in its versatility. It drinks well super chilled but it can also hold up at cellar temperature a day later. It all depends on what type of flavor profile you’re looking for. On the nose, earthy and red fruit shines. Chilled, the wine exhibits bright strawberry and softness upfront. A little warmer, blackberry and more brambly notes build with a solid acid structure and slightly dusty quality. It might be Carbonic but once it’s left for a night, the earthiness that develops makes no mistake that this is a Pinot Noir.

Es D’Aqui, All In Wine (2018)

Es D'Aqui, All In Wine (2018)

Jean-Louis Pinto works near Limoux, in the southwestern region of France and is a stickler for low-intervention wines. His Grenache, Carignan, Cabernet Franc, Mourvèdre, Muscat blend is truly one of the more unusual offerings from France. It manages to present floral qualities on the nose and is built on a lithe minerality with hints of red and black fruit. But this is a wild wine as it begins to open up. Yes, there are some mousy qualities but it really develops more of a meaty, feral quality as it evolves. It’s not particularly tannic but the brawny of Southern France really shines through.

On the spectrum of ambitious wines, this is toward the top. It’s not as if you get any particularly unusual notes but it will take you on a journey if you leave it open for the evening.

Until next time, happy sipping!

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