Les Cretes, Petite Arvine Valle d’Aosta 2015 (about $24)
Italian Wine for april, 2017
Val d’Aosta is not a region that readily comes to mind in discussions of Italian wine. The Aosta Valley is a mountainous region in far northwestern Italy that shares a border with France on the west and Switzerland on the north. It is Italy’s smallest and least populous region and the only region in Italy not divided into provinces.
Given its Alpine contours in addition to its relatively small size it’s not surprising that the region’s wine output is limited and wine recognition minimal. Val d’Aosta’s primary agricultural and wine growing area is limited to a narrow valley that extends from its border with France southeast for about 50 miles to the Piedmont border.
The best vineyard sites are on the lower, south-facing slopes of the valley’s mountain range and some climb to an elevation of 4,000 feet or so above sea level. Its precipitous slopes are difficult to work and its terraced vineyards never see a tractor. All the work has to be done manually.
Since there are no economies of scale on these precipitous mountain vineyards, most of the vineyard holdings are quite small and most producers belong to one of a handful of regional cooperatives.
Les Cretes is one of the exceptions. With approximately 62 acres of vineyards it is the largest privately-held winery in the Aosta Valley. It produces red as well as white wines from native as well as some non-indigenous varieties that have acclimated to the region’s difficult climatic conditions.
Petite Arvine is one of the Valle d’Aosta’s better white wine varieties and in the right hands it is capable of producing impressive, high-quality wines. Petite Arvine is a thick-skinned, late-ripening variety that needs a lot of sun exposure to ensure complete ripening. It produces medium-bodied, dry white wines with good acidity and captivating citrusy aromas and flavors.
Les Cretes’ 2015 Petite Arvine is made entirely of Petite Arvine. After a gentle pressing the grapes are fermented for 12 days in stainless steel tanks at controlled temperatures. The wine then spends 6 months ageing on the lees in steel tanks. The “lees” are the spent yeast cells and other particles that remain in the wine after fermentation and the interaction of the lees with the wine enhances the structure, mouthfeel and complexity of the wine.
The resulting wine has a bright straw-yellow to gold color. A gentle swishing of the glass releases pleasant Alpine floral, peach and citrusy aromas. The wine is medium-bodied and its green apple, grapefruit and lemon-curd flavors are balanced with crisp acidity. It has a rich, creamy “leesy” texture and finishes with a tingly, citrusy flourish.
This distinctive, medium-bodied wine is the perfect companion for fish dishes, shell-fish, white meats, carpaccio, sushi and young to medium-aged cheeses. I enjoyed this wine last month with pan-fried halibut drizzled with olive oil and lemon and some capers and it hit the spot.
April 9, 2017
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