Cave Des Onze “Vigne Alte” White Wine Blend 1.5 L Magnum 2016
Take the last exit before the tunnel that goes under Monte Blanc, the last exit in Italy before the highway passes into Switzerland. Then park your car in the tiny hamlet of Ruine and don’t bother locking the doors – there’s no one to steal it, anyway. Hike north out of town until you reach the first sheep herd, then continue to the first mountain. Climb the weathered ladder up the slope to the next highest herd.
From there, keep trekking north until you reach the tip of the glacier – this is where you’ll find these vines. And me, quaffing this fabulous white blend:
Aromas of heavy cream, Swiss glaciers, summer savory, thyme, and granite boulders, wet from an early morning snowfall. A mouthfeel that hints at fruitiness – green apples and cranberries – but then turns minerally and fresh, like spritzy mineral water. This is the heady, stimulating delight of Cave des Onze Communes Valle d’Aoste Alte Bianco. It’s a mouthful, both in name, and in spirit. Let me explain:
The Cave des Onze Communes Valle d’Aoste is a grower association of small farmers. And I mean small. In an area where sheepherding, glaciers, and wine agriculturally mix, nobody’s got a huge amount of land. And because they are so small, operating individual wineries is not cost-effective. So relatively recently, a small group banded together to make their own wine, here, at the highest-altitude vineyards in the world.
This is a field blend, so lots of different grapes that to me, show off its triple heritage – bracing power and structure on the palate like a white Burgundy (the French side of the family); fresh, crystal-clear and seamless in its flavors (Swiss); and all the time textured and rich – fully an Italian white.
The vineyards themselves are magnificent – they run up 1200 meters straight into the glaciers on vines that are trellised on the extremely old “tree” high-tier system. This allows cool air to sweep down the granite mountain and under the grapes and vines. Each vine gets its own tier, and each tier is hand-made to that vine. This is truly hand-made wine, and as such there isn’t much to go around – four acres of vineyards produce 1,000 bottles of this, their top bottling, for the world. It’s Italy’s smallest DOC, and an absolute treasure.
Everything you could want in a white wine is here – minerality, power, fruit, and sketches of savoriness, length, purity and vivacity on the finish. The nose is playful, clean and fresh. It reminds me of little kids bopping down a snowy slope in a tub sled, the only care in the world being how hard they laugh through the journey. It’s got white flowers, melting water, pineapple and apricot as fruit flavors, but even more striking is its crisp refreshment. Imagine having just skied down the Alps to a lodge, and this is what they had waiting for you at the bottom of the slope. Refreshing and crisp for the excursion, yet full and rounded for the hug of success!
These poor farmers, in one of the farthest reaches of the world of wine, are creating a beautiful treasure – and all you have to do is explore. And yes, this is their top bottle and as such, they only bottle it in Magnum (1.5 Liter bottle or twice the regular size). But don’t worry. A magnum is the perfect size for a couple to share.
Enjoy the abundance!