When it comes to Nebbiolo, the great red grape of northern Italy, many wine lovers will automatically think of the Piedmont region and the famed Barolo and Barbaresco appellations. While Nebbiolo may reach its apex in those areas, the variety is also grown in other parts of northern Italy, producing unique and notable wines as well.
One of those areas is the country’s smallest wine region, the Vallée d’Aosta DOC in Italy’s northwest, just above Piedmont and bordering both France and Switzerland. This is where the Alps converge in three countries, and the wines reflect their mountain pedigree. They are lighter in color and mouthfeel and somewhat lower in alcohol, but the best of them have their own depth and charm.
A top example is La Kiuva’s 2018 Vallée d’Aosta Arnad-Montjovet. This beautiful mountain wine from the Arnad-Montjovet sub-region is a blend of 70 percent Picotendro (the local Nebbiolo clone) and smaller amounts of four other grapes native to the region: Gros Vien, Neyret, Cornalin, and Fumin.
Bright red and dark fruit tastes, including raspberry, blueberry, and black cherry, are punctuated by subtle notes of earth, cedar, violets, cinnamon, and nutmeg — all of it framed by lively acidity and medium tannins that provide a perfect structure. The wine is aged in a combination of oak barrels and stainless-steel tanks.
I want mushrooms with this wine — in a risotto, perhaps, or with a tomato-less pizza. Chicken or salmon grilled or roasted with herbes de Provence (or similar Italian herbs) would be other excellent matches.
La Kiuva is a cooperative winery with 50 small growers who farm roughly 37 acres in the Vallée d’Aosta. This $20 wine is a showcase for a lesser-known region that deserves to be on your radar. (The 2019 and 2020 vintages are on the market as well and are labeled more simply as “Rouge de Vallée.”)