Monday, January 26, 2009

Extreme Wine from the Valle d'Aosta

I just had a wine that has to qualify as being made under extreme conditions. The grapes were grown in the highest vineyards in Europe--not a highest vineyard, THE highest vineyard. How high? It's in the shadow of Mount Blanc, in Italy's Valle d'Aosta region, and the grapes are planted up to 4000 ft. above sea level.

What grapes can survive in conditions such as those pictured on the left? Prie Blanc, an early-ripening grape that is native to the region. Growers plant the vines on low pergolas (pergola bassa) that keep the vines from getting too damaged in all that wind. These are hardy vines--they'd have to be--with an average age of 60 years.

And what hardy souls actually want to grow grapes in such a place? La Cave du Vin Blanc de Morgex et de La Salle is a co-op established in 1983 that includes more than 90 growers who produce fruit under the direction of Gianluca Telloli. They have an excellent website for those of you who know French or Italian--the English portion of the site is still under construction.

I had the 2006 La Cave du Vin Blanc de Morgex et de La Salle "Rayon" white wine which was stupendous markdown from K & L Wines for $4.99 a bottle (regular price: $17.99; find it online for $7-$21). Not surprisingly they've sold out of the wine in the 3 weeks since I placed my order. Now I'm on the lookout for the 2007 vintage. It was an intriguing white with its canary yellow color, heavy mouthfeel, and faint aromas of lemon. The flavors reminded me of pear and citrus, and there were mineral, rocky notes in the aftertaste. Very good QPR if you pay more than $10 for it, excellent QPR if you scored it for $5 (like I did).

Pair your La Cave du Vin "Rayon" with anything that's made with cheese (like risotto or fondue), shellfish, or chicken roasted with lemon and herbs. All of these foods will be excellent with the pear and citrus notes in the wine.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm always so amazed at all the wonderful new finds you're able to dig up for under $20! This just proves the point I've been trying to make to some of my wine-loving friends for years now -- that wine doesn't have to be expensive to be good, and that it is indeed possible to stick to the tight budgets so many of us are on these days yet not have to give up our wine hobbies.

I think I'm starting to convert a few though. I researched a few wine club gifts from my site around Christmas time for a couple of individuals that featured plenty of interesting new wines that wouldn't break the bank were they to fall in love with anything they tried.

I'm very definitely a cheese lover -- especially around this time of year when it's still quite chilly -- so I'll certainly be giving the Rayon a whirl with my famous white cheese and herb lasagna. It sounds like it would go absolutely perfectly. Thanks for yet another great lead on a bargain wine that sounds like a real value.