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Singular Mountain Wines of Northwestern Italy

Château Fueillet “Fumin” (Valle d’Aosta, 2014) red

Château Fueillet “Petite Arvine” (Valle d’Aosta, 2014) white

Maurizio Fiorano became a vineyard owner by chance. When he married and moved with his wife to her hometown of Saint-Pierre in the Valle d’Aosta, he took over the vineyards she had inherited and began producing the wines of Château Fueillet in 1997. He will humbly tell you that it’s not hard to make good wine from his 10 acres of vineyards, all on the left-hand side of the Dora Baltea river at an altitude of 2,000 to 2,500 feet, and with perfect exposure to the south. But Maurizio certainly understands how to exploit the region’s full potential.

If you’ve never heard of the northern mountainous wine zone of Valle d’Aosta it’s not surprising. Northwest of Piedmont, on the border of France and Switzerland, the total annual production of all DOC classified wine from the region is about 0.2% of what the leading grocery store brand sells in a year. Indeed, winemakers there don’t need to export any of their wine as there’s a built-in market among locals and tourists. Although Maurizio’s production is minute, he wants to the show the world the singularity of these mountain wines.

The terraced vineyards of Valle d’Aosta are as treasured a part of the scenery as are the castles that guard the valley’s historic access routes or the forests of beech, spruce, and fir that reach to the timberline of the Matterhorn, Monte Rosa, and Gran Paradiso mountains. The combination of a chilly climate, high altitude, and drastic diurnal temperature shifts provide extremely long hours of gentle sunlight. This allows the grapes an exceptionally long, slow ripening season that results in red wines with the heft of a sunny climate yet still refreshing.

The Fumin is the definition of exotica. A blend of 90% of the local native grape Fumin and 10% Syrah, it’s a deeply colored wine bordering on purple. Rich aromatics are layered with bright forest berries, earthy loam, grass, and pepper. Its enormous fruit is balanced by freshness and just a hint of soft tannins. Harvest is late October to early November. For contrast, the grape harvest in many parts of California started in August this year.

The flagship wine of Château Fueillet is the white, 100% Petite Arvine – a grape variety unique to this tiny mountainous slice of Italy and a handful of vineyards in Switzerland. Maurizio makes his Petite Arvine racy and vibrant, with a core of luminous fruit. The aromas transport you to alpine meadows and the finish is packed with crunchy stones and saline minerality.

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Posted on 2015.11.05 in Italy, Valle d'Aosta


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