Wednesday, July 13, 2011

2009 La Crotta di Vegneron Pinot Noir Bianco Vallée d’Aoste Italy

Decidedly, it seems that I cannot escape my attraction for the wines from the Vallée d’Aoste. These mountainous wines, which offer lot of minerality, crisp racy acidity and refreshing light fruit aromas and flavors, are so focused, versatile and pleasing, that it is difficult not to enjoy them all year long.

In previous posts, I wrote about producers like Ottin, Grosjean, Ermes Pavese, Noussan, etc… yet, a few days ago, a customer asked me to buy a wine from a producer that I wasn’t acquainted with and I would like to share this discovery with you.

La Crotta di Vegneron

“La Crotta di Vegneron” is a kind of a funny name for a cooperative, which resembles in French to “La Crotte du Vigneron” that literally means “the excrement of the vinegrower”, but I think it means “the dirt of the vinegrower”, in a sense of “the work of the vinegrower”. However, I was unable to find a proper translation for the word “Crotta”, which doesn’t seem to correspond to anything in Italian, but surely have a meaning the local language of Aosta. (I’m open to any answer).      

Created in 1980, La Crotta di Vegneron is a small cooperative located in Chambave, a village about 20 kilometers east of the town of Aosta, in the Vallée d’Aoste region, northwestern part of Italy.

The Vallée d’Aoste, also known as Valle d’Aosta, lay in the mountains and foothills southeast of the Mont-Blanc Mountain. The Vallée was created thousands of years ago by the melting glacier and the natural erosion. It is home to quaint little villages nestled down at the bottom of the valley and on the slopes surrounded by beautiful mountains. As it crosses the Aosta Valley, the Dora Baltea River, which originates by the Mont-Blanc, flows through the city of Aosta (where the Buthier runs into it) and then Saint-Vincent, before entering Piedmont.

From North to South and West to East, from the Mont-Blanc to Piedmont, one exploring the Vallée d’Aoste will cross the villages of Courmayeur, Pré-Saint-Didier, Morgex, La Salle, Saint-Pierre, Serre, Aosta, Quart, Nus, Chambave, Châtillon, Saint-Vincent, Monjovet, Champdepraz, Verrès, Donnas and Pont-Saint-Martin. 

Although smaller, independent producers now produce some of the greatest and most renowned wines of Aosta, the cooperatives of Morgex, L’Enfer d’Arvier and Donnas, are still producing excellent wines too that are very characteristic and representative of the village they originate from.

As another great example of quality oriented cooperative, “La Crotta di Vegneron” emphasizes classic and stunning expressions of the individual Terroirs of the tiny sub-appellations comprised between the village of Chambave and Nus. that would otherwise be left undiscovered due to the tiny patchwork of vineyard holdings in these villages.

Although there is a history of grape growing in this region since the 1200’s, many of the vineyards were abandoned in the decades after WWII. They risked total extinction until the 1970’s, when the Italian government stepped in to help rebuild many of these small cooperative wineries to preserve the heritage of these vineyards and revive this peace haven.

Located in Chambave, La Crotta di Vegneron possesses steep, south-facing vineyards pasted to the sides of the mountains that soar above them, “Monte Avic” (3006 meters) to the south and the peak culminating at 2400+ meters just north the Village of Grand Villa (here too I couldn’t find a name for it, any ideas?).

The vines grow between 450 and 1,050 meters of altitude in soils formed from millions of years of glacial runoff. These soils are very mineral and are composed largely of rocks and sand, giving a strong underlying minerality to the resulting wines. As in other mountainous regions of Italy, there is a large diurnal temperature shift, which results in ample ripeness as well as refreshing acidity.

La Crotta di Vegneron’s winemaking philosophy respects the underlying Terroirs, the environment with organic practices and indigenous varietals of the region. Although there is some barrel aging used on some of the wines, new oak is kept to a bare minimum. The grapes are all hand-harvested, and all their red wines are fermented with natural yeasts to help emphasize their individual expression.

The cooperative produces many wines from local grape variety like Furmin and Petite Arvine, but also other thriving grapes like Gamay, Pinot Noir, Muller-Thurgau, Malvoisie, Muscat, Moscato. The wines are divided in 5 categories or labels: 

Passiti, Linea Superiore, Linea Tradizione, Linea Monovarietali, Linea Family.

I invite you to visit their website at to discover these lines. 

2009 La Crotta di Vegneron Pinot Noir Bianco Vallée d’Aoste Italy
Suggested retail price $14-$17
Imported / distributed by Polaner in NYC

This post’s wine is very interesting in my opinion because, first, it is really good, and secondly, because it was crafted as a white from a red grape variety, which, mark my words, will be very common within the next few years. It has already started. The other day I tasted a white that was made out of 2 white grape varieties and Merlot; yes, Merlot for a white to add structure and texture and weight to a certain extend. I know it is weird somehow, but these wines are pretty good. It is a winemaking method that is up-and-coming and will rapidly evolve as it open the door to countless possibilities and combinations, and will surely inspire a new trend among the new winemakers who want to distinguish themselves from the pack.   

In France, usually, when a wine boasts a slightly pinkish color for a white, it is often called “Gris”; however, it is generally occurring because the skin of the grape isn’t really white, but slightly pigmented giving a grey-blue-pinkish color to the grape, like: Sauvignon Gris, Pinot Gris, Frontenac Gris, Moschofilero, etc.. 

If the 2009 La Crotta di Vegneron Pinot Noir Bianco adorns this very attractive, super light onion skin meet orange melon color, it is because it was crafted with 100% Pinot Noir grapes vinified off the skins, hence the slightly pink intriguing color. The nose is rather light, fresh, and mineral with a touch of cherry. The palate is also really light, crisp, racy, with lot of minerality, zesty acidity and very enjoyable texture, yet it may appear non-descript for some, but I really like it.

Like most wines from the Vallée d’Aoste, this wine combines elegance, refinement, and freshness in a focused palate, enhanced by the characteristic searing acidity, minerality and quality of the fruit. One day if I can, I think I will retire in the Vallée d’Aoste, this peaceful and undisturbed haven of peace north of Piedmont seems to have seduced my taste buds to the point that only a few other wine regions in the world can.


LeDom du Vin

Info partly taken from the importer website at  and from the winery website at

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