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.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Weird Blend Wednesday - Petit Rouge, Cornalin, Mayolet & Vien de Nus, Valle d'Aosta, Italy

Mayolet Grapes
Hello, everyone and welcome back to Weird Blend Wednesday.  Today's wine is a fun little field blend from the Valle d'Aosta that is made up of several different grapes that are specialties of the region.  I think.  See, this wine is sold as a vino da tavola, or, this close to the French/Italian border, a vin de table, which means that the only thing that the bottle can say is whether the wine is white or red, who made it and the name that the producer has decided to give to the bottling, if any (in this case, the wine is called Cuvé de la Côte).  No vintage, geographical indication (other than the country of origin) or grape make-up is permitted on the bottle at all, which isn't usually a problem in this day and age since many producers just put that kind of stuff online and let the consumers find it themselves.  For this wine, though, the only information available is from the distributor (the great Louis/Dressner) who only offers that the wine "is a field blend from a parcel of particularly old vines."  There's really no telling exactly what is in this bottle, and it's possible that the winemaker may not even know, if the parcel is old enough.  The guys at the Wine Bottega, where I picked this bottle up, said that it was most likely a blend of the four grapes mentioned above, and so that's what I'm going with.

Vien de Nus Grapes
We've already taken a good, long look at two of the four alleged grapes in this blend.  Petit Rouge is the savage little grape that forms the base of the wines from the Enfer d'Arvier and Torrette sub-regions within the Valle d'Aosta.  Cornalin is the confusing little grape that is a different thing depending on where you find yourself.  If you're in Italy, you're probably talking about Cornalin d'Aoste, which is usually called Humagne Rouge in Switzerland.  If you're in Switzerland, Cornalin refers to a different grape, known as Cornalin du Valais, which is actually one of the parents for Cornalin d'Aoste.  It's a long, tangled story that you can peruse at your leisure via the link above.

The other two grapes are Mayolet and Vien de Nus.  Mayolet is certainly the more common of the two grapes and can occasionally be found in varietal form, while Vien de Nus is pretty much a blending grape.  Mayolet is referenced in writings dating back to the 18th Century and is thought to be indigenous to the Valle d'Aosta.  Recent DNA testing has shown that Mayolet is one of the parents of Cornalin du Valais (Petit Rouge is the other), which means that both Petit Rouge and Mayolet are the grandparents of Cornalin d'Aoste (Vouillamoz, J., Maigre, D., Meredith, C.P. (2003) Microsatellite analysis of ancient alpine grape cultivars: pedigree reconstruction of Vitis vinifera L. "Cornalin du Valais." Theoretical and Applied Genetics, (107) 448-454).  This wine, then, is kind of like a little family reunion in a bottle where Vien de Nus plays the role of a longtime neighbor who is like an honorary uncle, even though he isn't really related by blood to anyone there.  Vien de Nus also has a long history in the Valle d'Aoste and is thought to be native to the region, but if there is any genetic link between it and the other three grapes in this wine, I haven't been able to find it.

The wine that I was able to try was made by Franco Noussan who lives in the village of St. Christophe in the hills above the town of Aoste.  His bio on Louis/Dressner's site says that he works at the local university, which it turns out is the Institut Agricole Régional, the local agricultural school where the Cornalin and Prëmetta I wrote about earlier came from.  His winery is essentially an extension of his garage which he dug into the hillsides around his house.  He has several parcels scattered around St. Christophe including one with vines over 70 years old, which is where I presume the grapes for this wine came from.  Altogether he farms about 5.5 hectares of land which he works without herbicides.  He hand harvests all of his grapes and uses only indigenous yeasts in his fermentation.  He has been making wine for his family and friends for many years but has only been offering them commercially since 2005.

I picked up my NV bottle of the Noussan Cuvé de la Côte from my friends at the Wine Bottega for about $25.  In the glass, the wine was a medium purple ruby color.  The nose was very aromatic with black cherry, black plum and wild raspberry fruits with a touch of smoke.  There was something wild and savage to the nose that was very interesting and deeply compelling.  On the palate the wine was on the fuller side of medium with fairly high acid and medium tannins.  There were flavors of black cherry, dried cherry, wild raspberry and blackberry fruit with smoke, char and a little bit of funk.  It was wild and complex but really nicely balanced as well.  There was a good mixture of red and black fruits with nice charred, smoky undertones to it that was all held up with a lively vein of acidity.  I really felt like the wine over-delivered in terms of complexity and depth for the price, especially since wines from the Valle d'Aoste tend to be fairly expensive because of their limited production.  It would go well with all kinds of food but I think something with duck or sausage would be great as the bright acidity here would just cut through the fat and match well with meat that's a little funky.


the vinophile said...

What an interesting blend! You said it's available at Wine Bottega? Do you think they are still carrying it? (btw I love that little place)

Fringe Wine said...

Hi Vinophile:

I'm not sure if the Bottega still has any of this left but if you ask Matt about it, he may be able to find a bottle for you if they're out. I feel like I've seen it on their shelves recently but can't be sure.

Thanks for reading!