Posted by: jmbwineblog | July 10, 2011

Forza Piemonte 2: (Part 1/4) One day in Aosta!

Ladies and Gentlemen, first and foremost, a small apology that it has taken a while to get this new instalment up and running. Various travels, tastings and the like have meant it has been fairly hectic. Well, hectic in the sense that I have been tasting, eating, cooking, drinking a lot… it is a hard life but someone’s gotta do it!!!

Aosta this way!!!

Having spent a stressful time, verging on 13 hours of travelling/sitting in train stations/waiting for delayed TGVs, we eventually got to our hotel in Milan and were able to meet our great friend and Piemonte trip organiser, Birger Vejrum of http://www.langhe-vine.dk fame! And swiftly set off as a group of 14 to the Vallee d’Aosta or in French, Valle d’Aoste (I’ll explain why in a moment) for our afternoon and evening in this area.

Aosta

Aosta, is a prefecture in Italy which borders France and Switzerland, and sits at the very top of Piemonte, almost direct North of Torino, and directly West of Milano. It is an old Roman outpost and whilst not the highest part of the Alps by any means, contains spectacular views because one is right down at the bottom of the river valley surrounded by the Alps on both sides heading in the direction of Chambery or Briancon in France. Historically, the region has been part of France for periods of time, and as such, you will notice that wine labels are in French and road signs are in both ITalian and French. In fact some of the road signs are only in French, because they have never been changed. The population all speak French as well, and at times with the elder generations, one gets the feeling that they would rather speak to you in French than in Italian, and the architecture of the town very much reminds me of where we are currently living in the Alps, GAP, and in that sense the culture and atmosphere is very similar as well.

A very Alpine Image.

Our first stop on this whistlestop tour, after collecting some members of the group who had driven down from Copenhagen at the hotel, was to get ourselves to the tiny village up the hill called Introd, in order to visit our only producer that we would see here, Lo Triolet.

“Sweet Wines are for Old People”

Lo Triolet, is for the region (with only 300,000 bottles produced in total) considered to be medium sized at production levels of 45,000 bottles on average per year. The current member of the family who makes the wines is Marco Martin, and he has been doing this for nearly 18 years now, and he does a good job of making good to great wines in a region that due to the climate is not an easy place to ripen grapes fully. Vintage variation is certainly an issue… An example of this, is the frosts that have damaged some of the buds and vines in 2011. The winery sits at 800 metres above sea level, with the vines at 900 metres along a long, narrow, twisty mountain road that makes the Route Napoleon feel like a motorway and at an incline that would be testing for many of the group mountain cyclists who take part in the Tour de France every July!! In one sense, we were half way up the mountain, and that perhaps really puts into perspective the nature of the Alps as a whole. Marco makes 10 different wines from his 7 hectares (of which 5 are planted with vines) of sandy soils. Three of these are 100% Pinot Gris (steel tank, barrel and a sweet wine), two are mono-varietal whites (Gewurztraminer & Muscat a Petit Grains), and Five Reds made from either a blend, or monovariatals including Gamay, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Petit Rouge, Nousse & Furmin (the last three being local grape varieties). You can certainly see the connection to France in the grape varieties and on the wine labels that are pretty much entirely written in French.

Marco explaining his wines...

The Wines

2010 Pinot Gris [12,000 bottles, bottled at the end of March, and Marco believes that it will age for up to 10 years, who am I to argue… ;-)] rich, lifted, zippy, citrus nose, nutty with nice length, lime, lime zest, and a touch of orange peel, white pepper, waxy lanolin, fresh paint, nicely balanced. A zippy, well made Pinot Gris, sitting somewhere in between the rich wines of Alsace and the watery wines of the Veneto. Noisettes and hard white cheese. ****(*+) or [4+4+4.5+4=16.5/20]

2009 Pinot Gris; even more nutty and cheesy, but more restrained and less obvious fruit charactar, candle wax, lanolin, more zip to the palate and well balanced, lime, marble, white flowers, lovely breathe, more complete, mineral and elegant, lemon and butter with a poised finish. ****(**) or [3.5+4+4.5+4.5=16.5/20]

2010 Muscat a Petit Grains; [2 grams per litre of sugar in the first vintage produced of this wine], zippy, fresh, lemon, lime, lively acidity with lemony, grapey fruit. well balanced, fresh, clean, a feeling of both sweetness, and saline nuttiness, grassy, nice summer wine. ***** or [3.5+4+4+4=15.5/20]

2010 Gewurztraminer; [only four grams per litre of sugar, because as Marco says, “sugar is for old people”, and I’ll let you decide what you think of that opinion], lychee, melon, fresh, delicate, lifted nose, spice, herbs, grass, crisp, defined, lemon, broad but perhaps a touch subdued, spicebox, pepper, earth and grit. ***(**) or [3.5+3.5+4+4=15/20]

2009 Pinot Gris eleve en barriques; smokey, toasty, butter, lemon butter, lemon, lime, earth, minerals, earthy, dusty, lemon curd, restrained and delicate, wood spice, pepper, broad, but will need some serious time for the wood to fully integrate and shine. ***(***+) or [4+4+4+4~=16++/20]

The barrel aged Pinot Gris... a star of the show.

2009 Gamay; depth, bubblegum, plum, a proper Gamay, very fresh, but it remains easy and delicate at the same time. Herby, grassy, earthy and mineral. A touch short on the finish perhaps. Really nice, but perhaps lacking a touch of je ne sais quoi?? ****(*+) or [4+4+3.5+4=15.5/20]

2008 Coteau Barrage; [80% Syrah, 20% Fumin of which 60% sees barrique and the rest stainless steel before bottling]; sweet spice, vanilla, plum, pepper, blueberries with freshness, earth, coffee, minerals, depth and restraint, a touch of perfume, with a herby closed finish. Cherry, cedar, raspberry, tobacco leaf, kernal but delicate, never overpowering, and very very nice. ***(**++) or [4+4+4.5+4.5=17/20]

2009 Fumin; sweet black plum, red and black cherry, a perfume and minerality shines through, shows the sandy soils up very well, fresh, herby, raspberry palate, and a very mineral finish with a touch of blood and plum. herby, fresh and lifted, but lots of sand and salinity. ****(*++) or [4.5+4+4+4=16.5/20]

2009 MistigrI “Vino da uve Stramature”; [a Passito made from Pinot Gris], lifted honeyed nose, lemon curd, lime, delicate, grassy, sandy, gritty, broad, lime, lemon butter, honey, nuts and a hint of lanolin, focused, poised and in need of more time to really blossom. Nicely concentrated but not hugely sweet. Long grass, tobacco leaf, herby finish. Nutty!! ****(**) or [4+4+4+4=16/20]

The brilliant sweet wine...

The wines at Lo Triolet are good wines and are very well made. Whilst the whites were nice and the barrel ged Pinot Gris superb, it was the reds that for me stood up and made you pay attention. Considering most people talk about the whites, I was to some extent left underwhelmed but wonderfully surprised by the reds, which showed mineral charactar and liveliness. Do not get me wrong, the wines are superb here whether white, red or sweet, but I was left wanting with the whites whereas the reds stood out nicely as something unique. Perhaps this could also be down to perception and expectation, and it would be nice to revisit these wines from a more even standpoint.

Other bottles…

During the trip, as always there was sometimes a bit of spare time, or time for a drink on the bus. So here are two wines that were not consumed over dinner, lunch or at a winery, but simply whilst killing some time!!

1997 Barolo “Bussia Suprana”, Poderi Aldo Conterno; [consumed on the bus from Milano Malpensa to Aosta]; truffle, meat, white truffle, congealed blood, roses, tar, tarmac, cherry, earth, soil, forest floor, decaying leaves, mushroom, wood spice, scorched earth, wet roses, lovely breathe and complexity, fairly long, sweat, saddle leather, smoke, flint, sea salt, saline, sandstone, minerals, very sandy, still with nice grip and caressing acidity, rounded and balanced, grass, herbs, rosemary. Density of fruit is impressive and it still has not completely unfurled. Good structure, dark plum, wild raspberry, chocolate orange, coffee, noisette, bread. *****(*+?) or [4+4.5+5+4=17.5/20]

2009 Pinot Gris (eleve en barrique) Lo Triolet; [drunk before going to a lovely dinner at a wine bar in Aoste Centre Ville called Hostaria del Calvino]: a little more nutty than at the winery, complete and rounded but still slightyl subdued and reserved, smoke, flint and minerals, wood spice, butter, poised, concentrated, balanced, lemon, lemon butter, hints of lime, sand, green olive, herbs, grass, oily, a bit of melon, stewed apple, more rounded and giving but perhaps due to storage conditions not being ideal, and thus being a touch forward? This is now where it wants to be. *****(*+) or [4.5+4+4+4.5=17/20]

Don’t worry, there will be more like this to come!!!! NExt it was off to dinner at the only Restaurant in Aosta to have any Michelin stars.

At Ristorante Vecchio Ristora

A table layout befitting of the stars.

The food here, was of a very high quality and whilst not perhaps the most photogenic of cuisines, was traditional, tasty and filling and not at an outrageous price. I would certainly recommend this place, but whatever you do, do not go for the Genepi (a liqueur made from infusions of a herb called Genepi that is grown in the high mountains above 1800 metres in altitude and used as a digestif), which is found in France as an artisanal product and is very tasty, but is slightly chemical and factory produced in Aosta/Italian Alpine regions. Stick to the Grappa, it is all free with your set meal!! We had four wines with our meal, and all deserve credit for being very well made and impressive in their own right. All were from the Aosta valley region.

The Wines

NV Brut; Metodo Classico Blanc de Morgex et de la Salle; crisp, lemon, restrained, but slightly aggressive bubbles on the nose, whilst balanced, it is overwhelmingly lemony, with a creamy to aggressive mousse. Aggressive notes however do blow off quickly in the glass to leave behind good length, some depth and concentration and a dusty, chalky flavour that matches very well to the food. A very nice lemony finish. ****(**) or [3.5+4+4+4=15.5+/20]

2009 Petite Arvine; co-op Enfer; soft, white pepper, lemon, pebbles, marble, citrus, lime, creamy, zippy, spicy, gooseberry, savoie-esque, delicate, reserved, understated and good with the food. The fruit flavours really come to the fore. A bit of nuttiness, good freshness, rosemary, basil, thyme, complex but understated. Nice breathe and a persistant fresh finish. I’d love to sit down with a bottle of this to see what happens. *****+(+?) or [4+4+4.5+4=16.5/20]

2008 Torrette Superiore; Maison Anselmet; [Petit Rouge with a tiny bit of Furmin]; coffee, tea leaf, rosemary, provencale herbs, a bit of leather, meat, horse, funk, sous bois, complex, poised, bell pepper, balanced and fascinating. You could mistake this for a young off vintage St. Julien. Round, soft, earthy charactar, but with crunchy red fruit, cherry, plum, strawberry, raspberry, sous bois, forest floor, wet leaves, raw tobacco leaf, poised, with lots of freshness. Restrained but fun. Very good with the meat dish. ****(**) or [4+4+4+4=16/20]

2007 Moscato Passito Chambave “Priere”; La Crotta di Vegneron: fresh, lifted, honeyed, stewed grape nose, clean, crisp, earthy, round and herby, grass, melon, orange, marmalade, sandy, dusty minerality. A very fine, balanced win with both power and elegance. Style, and class with nice length. *****+ or [4+4.5+4.5+4=17/20]

Some of the delightful local cuisine...

 The next day, it would be off and out of the mountains, into the foothills that are Piemonte, and the regal wines of that region, but before I go, I would like to dedicate this post to Eami

Eami is the faithful companion/dog of our continued organiser Birger Vejrum of these Piemonte trips, and she died at 9 and a half years of age just over three hours ago. Whilst, those of you who don’t have animals may find this stupid, those who do will know the pain this sort of loss can cause and the sorrow it brings. Eami was a wonderful, friendly energetic dog who made friends wherever she went. She touched us as well, and we were very much looking forward to seeing her again in September. She will be missed.

RIP, Eami 2002-2011

Until next time… Stay tuned for Part 2.

Happy Drinking.

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Responses

  1. Thanks a lot Jonathan.


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