Valle d'Aosta, also known as Aosta Valley, is an Alpine region located in the northwestern part of Italy, bordering France and Switzerland. One of Italy's smallest wine regions, it boasts a history of winemaking that spans thousands of years. The geology is characterized by rugged, mountainous terrain and is home to some of the highest peaks in the Alps, including Mont Blanc, which is the highest mountain in Europe.
The soils of the Valle d'Aosta are dominated by granitic rocks, with many of the peaks being composed of granite. Valle d'Aosta has a typical Alpine climate, with cold winters and mild summers. The temperature in the winter can fall below freezing with snowfall being common, while the summer temperature is usually mild.
The Valle d'Aosta wine region is divided into three valleys: the Valdigne, the central valley, and the Vallee d'Entremont. The vineyards are located at high altitudes, between 600 and 1,200 meters above sea level, and are planted on steep slopes that face south, southwest, or southeast. The most common grape varieties grown in the region are Petit Rouge, Gamay, Pinot Noir, Nebbiolo, and Fumin, though there are many interesting native varietals made in tiny quantities.
The wines of Valle d'Aosta are known for their purity, freshness, minerality, and elegance. The red wines are generally light to medium-bodied, with good acidity. The white wines of Valle d'Aosta are also noteworthy, particularly the Blanc de Morgex et de La Salle, which is made from the Prié Blanc grape variety. This wine is known for its high acidity, floral and citrus aromas, and its minerality.
Les Granges was started in 1991 by the husband and wife team of Gualtiero Crea and Liana Grange. They farm biodynamically, producing about 15,000 bottles of six wines made from the native grapes Cornalin, Fumin, Mayolet, Vuillermin, Petit Rouge as well as some Pinot Noir. As is typical in Valle d'Aosta, the plots are small, of which three hectares are planted with vineyards and one with mixed agriculture.
Grape Collective talks to Gualtiero Crea of Les Granges in the village of Nus near the town of Aosta, about how the wines of Valle d'Aosta are unique and the region's alpine landscape, climate, and culture.
Christopher Barnes: Talk about the history of wine in the Valle d'Aosta.
Gualtiero Crea: So, wine is an ancient story of great prestige, because Valle d'Aosta has been a region very suited to high-quality viticulture since ancient times, especially at the beginning of the Middle Ages. There were some wines, perhaps called luxury wines, which were exported all over northern Europe. This is thanks to the passes and the climatic conditions, more favorable when the glaciers were higher and therefore the passes were more easily crossed. High-quality wines were obtained. The tradition of “appassimento” was already born then, to make some high-quality wines.
And talk a little bit about the terroir, the soil, the Piedra and the Klima and the Valle d'Aosta.
The soil is predominantly morainic soil, for the whole of the middle valley and the upper valley it is basic, and instead for the lower valley it is acid. The climate is very favorable because there is low rainfall, it is very windy and therefore this lends itself well to the cultivation of quality grapes because the climate is very dry. The exposure in the Valle d'Aosta is divided into two exposures: one facing south and the other facing north. So in the south you have much more concentrated wines while in the north you have fresher wines.
Already in ancient times there were several crus in the Aosta Valley and if you want, the most famous is that of Touret. Then there is the Enfer, the Chambave soils are very suitable for crus.
How did you get started with biodynamics?
I had already had my first contact with biodynamics when I was young, in the '80s. Slowly we arrived, but we never managed to practice it intensely. But then we chose to practice it in 2012. This is because we needed a naturalness, because my family worked entirely with us in the company, and we didn't want to have contact with chemical substances. So it was a wise choice for everyone's health, out of respect for the environment. An investigation that leads to a much smaller environmental impact.
Talk a little bit about a couple of the native grapes.
Valle d'Aosta is rich in native vines that were rediscovered in the late '80s and early '90s. There had been research and so we rediscovered these native vines that are different. Now to list them all: Cornalin, Vuillermin Fumin, Mayolet, and Premetta. We have focused on these vines because we think they are an expression of the territory.