In this series of posts, we are going to drill down into one or more wines indigenous to each Italian wine region and give you an overview of flavors and characteristics, so you can be better equipped to make right pairing choices when considering fine Italian wine. Our first region will be Valle D’Aosta.
As with many European wine nomenclatures, Italian wines are known not only by their regional appellation, but also in many instances by their varietal names. In fact, Prié blanc — one varietal highlighted in this article — is also known by 59 other names! These quirks make it difficult to know exactly what wine you are buying, much less what a wine will taste like from any particular region, for example Valle D’Aosta (Aosta Valley).
Italy regulates which wines are officially authorized to be grown region by region, and which wines must be included in their wines of highest designations: Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC), and Denominazione di Origine e Garantita (DOCG). So, if you become familiar with regional attributes, it can simplify what to look for.
Which brings us to Valle D’Aosta (Aosta Valley), the smallest of all the Italian wine regions. Valle D’Aosta is nestled near the Swiss border and is known as the Alpine corner of Italy. The two wines we’ll focus on: Prié Blanc and Vien de Nus.
Valle D’Aosta Wines: Prié blanc
Prié blanc is one of the oldest varietals, found almost exclusively in the Aosta Valley. Because it has been grown for such a long time (earliest reference: 1691), it is genetically linked to almost all varietals near this area. Although the vines are susceptible to many predators, including rot and moths, it thrives in the harsh valley conditions by being trained close to the ground and near stone walls that retain needed heat.
According to Talitha Whidbee at Vine Wine in Williamsburg, VA, Prié blanc is “clean and crisp and super-refreshing.” Expect a medium-bodied white wine, with medium acidity. It is also well balanced — perfect for summer with flower notes, and for early fall with hints of stone fruits. One of the many names this wine goes by is “Blanc de Morgex.” Good pairings would be any light summer dishes, or medium-bodied squash soups.
Valle D’Aosta Wines: Vien de Nus
Vien de Nus is micro-regional, grown near the town of Nus. It is extremely rare and is primarily used as a blending wine. Nus Rosso is the DOC wine requiring at least 70% of Vien de Nus grapes. So this is the wine that will give you the clearest sense of this grape’s flavors and substance. (It also appears in Nebbiolo, Dolcetto, and others.) Characteristics of this varietal are its intense red garnet color, lasting wine tones on the nose, and hints of cherries and herbs. I would suggest pairing it with semi-light meat dishes like goat or pork, potatoes or hearty vegetables.
If you’ve tried either of these wines, please share your thoughts. We would love to hear them.