A blog devoted to exploring wines made from unusual grape varieties and/or grown in unfamiliar regions all over the world. All wines are purchased by me from shops in the Boston metro area or directly from wineries that I have visited. If a reviewed bottle is a free sample, that fact is acknowledged prior to the bottle's review. I do not receive any compensation from any of the wineries, wine shops or companies that I mention on the blog.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Cornalin - Valle d'Aosta, Italy
To start with, there are two different grapes called Cornalin. In Switzerland, there's a grape called Rouge de Pays which is also known as Cornalin du Valais. This grape is actually an offspring of Petite Rouge and Mayolet, two red grapes thought to be native to the Valle d'Aosta region of Italy. It is grown in the Valais region of Switzerland (where they have about 116 hectares under vine) and is one of the better regarded red grapes within Switzerland.
And then there's Cornalin d'Aoste, which is an offspring of Cornalin du Valais. Cornalin d'Aoste is also known as Humagne Rouge and is also grown in the Valais region of Switzerland, where they have about 128 hectares under vine. It becomes a little clearer at this point to see why my Italian wine books breeze right over any mention of either Cornalin, as they seem to be specialties of Switzerland at this point, though there is obviously some connection to the Valle d'Aosta region of Italy in the genetic lineage as well as the naming of one of the grapes. Switzerland does, of course, share a border with the Valle d'Aosta so the movement of grapes between the two areas isn't a particularly mysterious or rare phenomenon.
The problem that I now have is that it isn't clear at all which Cornalin I actually tasted. My bottle came from the Institut Agricole Regional in the Valle d'Aosta and is labeled merely "Cornalin" with no additional information on the back label. Both varieties have "Cornalin" as an acceptable synonym, so that's no real help. I was able to track down the paper discussing the genetic work done on the two cultivars where it becomes clearer that Rouge de Pays (Cornalin du Valais) was not called Cornalin until 1972 and that the name was specifically borrowed from the grape called Cornalin within the Valle d'Aosta. The Italian grape was first referred to as Cornalin in 1837, giving it historical precedence. So the grape grown in the Valle d'Aosta is Cornalin d'Aoste, also known as Humagne Rouge in Switzerland. Furthermore, the paper informs me that the Intitut Agricole Regional is the keeper of the "standard" version of Cornalin, meaning they possess the vines that are used in all of the genetic research as being the "true" or "original" Cornalin vine. For those interested in reading more about it, the article is in the August 2003 issue of Theoretical and Applied Genetics, pages 448-454 (the authors of the paper are J. Vouillamoz, D. Maigre, and C.P. Meredith and the paper is caled "Microsatellite analysis of ancient alpine grape cultivars: pedigree reconstruction of Vitis vinifera L. "Cornalin du Valais").
Trousseau through a black licorice straw, you probably wouldn't be too far off. The wine was slightly improved on day two of tasting after being open all night, but it wasn't a significant change. The bitterness was a little too much for me and prevented me from being able to fully enjoy this, but it was definitely cool and interesting and is something I'd give another shot if another ever crosses my path.