Thursday, December 9, 2010

2008 GrosJean Frères Torrette Red Vallée d’Aoste Quart Italy

Last year around the same period, I wrote a post about great wines from the Valle d’Aosta, and a few days ago, I just tried another wine from this incredible region, a true “Alibaba’s cavern” full of wine gems. So, here we go again! Back in the “Vallée d’Aoste” (as we say in French)!

This somewhat undiscovered micro-region that encompasses some of the most remote highest vineyards in Europe, is located at the far northwestern part of Italy, bordering France to the west, Switzerland to the north and Piedmont to the southeast.

Valle d’Aosta is like a minuscule dot on the world map. Often overlooked and surprisingly insignificant for the novices and other unworthy of its magnificence and history, this ancient kingdom thrones in a beautiful reclusive valley surrounded by the Alpine foothills about 50 kilometers southeast of the Mont Blanc Mountain.

The Vallée is a haven of peace and quiet where time seems to have stopped and the air seems to be pure, enhancing the untouched surrounding nature, barely tamed by human hands. Out of rather unknown indigenous grapes like Fumin, Petite Rouge, Petite Arvine, etc…Aosta’s winemakers produce fantastic whites and reds that are bright, refreshing, earthy, juicy and loaded with minerality. I love most wines from the Valle d’Aosta. They are as vibrant and limpid as a cold mountain spring, full of minerals, intense and delicate, characteristic, inviting and charming. Somewhat irresistible and delightful!

When Blake from Madrose/Rosenthal, (one of my favorite wine importers in the US for their portfolio and the consistency and the focus of their wines), came to the store to introduce me to a few new wines, and more especially to GrosJean Torrette, I was really excited to verify if GrosJean Torrette was as great as their Gamay, which evidently, immediately I tasted it became one of the new benchmarks of the store. And it exceeded my expectation.

2008 GrosJean Frères Torrette Red Wine Vallée d’Aoste Quart Italy

Grosjean Frères winery is located on the border of the towns of Quart and Saint Christophe in the Valle d'Aosta. The vines planted initially, in addition to the traditional Petit Rouge, were Gamay, Pinot Noir and Petite Arvine. Later the native Fumin, Cornalin, Prëmetta and Vuillermin were also planted.

Although the GrosJean family has for centuries made and kept wines (and nuts) for the long winter months in the mountains, the winery’s story really started in 1969, when the family members began to bottle their own wines for presentation at "The Exposition des vins du Val d'Aoste". This exhibition stimulated the initiative of increasing the vineyards, which brought the company from 3,000 square meters to the actual 7 hectares of vineyards, with the involvement of the 5 children, thus the name "Grosjean Frères" (meaning Grosjean "brothers" in French).

Grosjean Frères is part of the Association of "Viticulteurs Encaveurs" Valdostan which brings together 24 small producers who were able to characterize the quality and typicality of their wines produced in the Valle d'Aosta DOC. This group of tenants has a close relationship with the land (Valle d'Aosta) and personally follows all stages of production, from vineyard to cellar to retail sale.

The "Viticulteurs Encaveurs" devote great attention to two important factors, farming techniques and traditional vinification (usually handed down from father to son), which are then both compared to new ideas and technologies, always with a view to use friendly and natural agriculture.

Torrette, too often described as the grape variety, is in fact an area part of the central valley or "Valle Centrale", Valle d’Aosta most productive zone. Valle Centrale is further sub-divided into four areas, all still within the Valle d'Aoste DOC:
  • Enfer d'Arvier (around the village of Arvier),
  • Torrette (located east of Arvier and occupying a large portion of the Valle d'Aosta with the largest production),
  • And the villages of Nus and Chambave (making interesting reds).

“Torrette” produces a soft, delicate, harmonious red wine, with juicy red and dark fruit characteristics. It is the most produced wine in the Aosta region; and the zone of production is the biggest compared to all other Valle d’Aosta D.O.C. (Denomination of Controlled Origin).

Torrette wines are predominantly crafted with Petite Rouge (80% minimum for most, up to 100% for some), complemented by Vien de Nus, Doucet, Fumin and/or Mayolet. Carefully hand-harvested and destemmed, the grapes’ vinification usually occurred in stainless tanks, but can be partially done in wooden barrels, depending of the desired style and the producer.

2008 GrosJean Frères Torrette Red Wine Vallée d’Aoste Quart Italy
Suggested retail price $21-$24
Imported/Distributed by Madrose/Rosenthal

This Torette is a blend 80% Petite Rouge and 20% Vien de Nus, Doucet, Fumin and Mayolet grapes from high altitude vineyards, about 550 to 650 m altitude, planted on steep slopes (30-60%) of loose soil of moraine with ideal south and south-west exposure. The wine was crafted in stainless steel tanks where it underwent a short maceration of 4-5 days, which explain the light color, and was then fermented. After fermentation, the wine rested for at least 3-6 months in stainless steel tanks to keep the freshness before bottling.

The resulting wine, 2008 GrosJean Frères Torrette Red, is beautiful and highly recommended. What a wine! Light to medium ruby color in the glass with medium to good intensity. The nose is fresh, mineral, with lovely yet discreet red-dark berries aromas. The palate is soft, gentle, well balanced, juicy, structured and focus, and highly versatile to suit any kind of dishes. Their Gamay was brighter with more acidity and lighter fruit, this Torrette is somewhat fuller and rounder, yet with great acidity, textured and length. Excellent!

Like Lagrein in Südtirol; Grignolino in Piedmont; Gamay in Loire and Burgundy and Valle d’Aosta; Dornfelder and Spätburgunder in Germany; or even Blaufrankisch, Saint Laurent, and Zweigelt in Austria; Petite Rouge and all the above grapes varieties, produce extremely friendly, somewhat light to medium, very versatile, fruity, fresh red wines that are delightfully easy to drink for any occasion. Ask your local wine store for more info (and me of course, by email or if you pass by Heights Chateau at 123 Atlantic ave, Brooklyn, NY 11201).


LeDom du Vin

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