Nicola Rosset and the kingdom of native vines
Here the story starts from afar and tells of a family of Lombard “grapats”, this is the name of the characters who during the harvest period wandered through the vineyards of Northern Italy with their mobile alembic to look for the best pomace to be distilled to produce grappa. They are the Levi, maternal family branch of Nicola Rosset, a forward-looking entrepreneur from Valle d’Aosta. One of them, Guglielmo Levi, arrived in Aosta in the late 1800s and founded his distillery in the village of Sant’Orso. And here, generation after generation, they begin to produce quality grappa, collecting the pomace from the cellars of the Aosta Valley. In the third millennium, there are three brands owned by the family: next to the historic Distillerie Saint Roch, Ottoz and Levi Distillati appear dedicated to indigenous vines in purity. And today we are also witnessing the construction of the new distillery.
Also at the beginning of the millennium, Cesare and his son Nicola they decide that it is also time to let the potential of the Aosta Valley vines be expressed in identity wines. The mountain in a glass: this could be defined as entrepreneurial and sentimental investment. In the first three hectares of vineyards in Senin di Saint-Christophe, they plant chardonnay, syrah and the native cornalin. Shortly thereafter, the petit rouge, a symbolic grape variety among the Aosta Valley natives, will also enter the range. And again, in the following years, the Rosset company took over another 2 hectares of white Muscat vineyards in the suitable area of Chambave, where the Chambave Muscat Vallée d’Aoste was born. The last phase is the one that embraced the land over 900 meters of altitude in the municipality of Villeneuve. Here, in a truly heroic place, on slopes over 50%, petite arvine and pinot gris are grown.
But that’s not all, because in April 2020 Nicola Rosset bets on another land, a plot located 850 meters above St. Christophe, in the locality of Le Croux where, in a few years, syrah and chardonnay will be harvested. Today the cellar is completely eco-sustainable and at no cost thanks to the use of photovoltaic panels. The vineyards, a dozen hectares for 50 thousand bottles, are entrusted to the super advice ofenologist Luca D’Attomawhile the daily work is entrusted to two very good young winemakers: Matteo Moretto (determined) and the 25-year-old Carole Bich. To them, the exercise that also includes the use of terracotta amphorae by Francesco Tava and Tuscan jars. To act as brand ambassador, the good Angelo Sarica.
But let’s get to the wines that in some ways have sensational characteristics starting with the Rosset whites. A cru emerges overwhelmingly, the Above 900, 2020 vintage, which is an exceptional high-sea wine from 30-year-old petite arvine grapes that climb even over 1,000 meters; pressed and aged partly in amphora, partly in Tuscan jar, partly in barrique and the rest in steel. Perfectly balanced between flavor and minerality. From the golden yellow color, you will be captivated by the note of ripe exotic fruit and medicinal herbs in abundance where rosemary stands out. In the mouth it is full, elegant, balsamic, decidedly intense. And I still remember last October the open-stage applause during the tasting I conducted at Vinitaly Special Edition, with live connection with Nicola Rosset. Emotion. Same blend, but from vineyards at lower altitudes, for the Vallée d’Aoste Petite Arvine 2020, vinified only in steel. It has notes of wisteria and exotic fruit as if it were a spiced banana; in the mouth it appears silky and velvety.
Let’s go back to the high peaks to discover the Vallée d’Aoste Pinot Gris 2020, which only makes steel. And here you feel the fresh notes of fruit candies, with a very intense peach, talc; in the mouth you appreciate its soft enveloping and savory finish. The taste of 2021 was sensational, with a longer, extreme maceration on the skins, and then passage in wood – barrel – and which shows clear notes of pear and then in the mouth a filigree that refers to the fruit for a complex and full sip. It will be released in August of this year and, as far as I’m concerned, it will be an event.
Then another cru from a vineyard about 800 meters high, the Vallée d’Aoste Chardonnay, vinified with soft pressing, processing in French oak barrels and barrels, cold pre-fermentation skin maceration. It has notes of custard and candied orange. He shows his muscles like a great white of international caliber; full and crunchy in the mouth, it ends with an iconic flavor. And finally it Chambave Muscat, from 100% Muscat. Processing partly in amphora with 6 months of aging on the skin and partly in steel. Cold pre-fermentation skin maceration. On the nose you immediately feel the aroma with notes of mint and in the mouth a velvet that ends with a final bitter taste.
Vallée d’Aoste Cornalin 2020, which was my first love, was born from a soil deriving from the discharge of ancient glaciers, at a height of 750 meters. Vinified in purity, it undergoes cold pre-fermentation maceration at a controlled temperature. Fermentation in steel at spontaneous temperature with inoculation of selected yeasts. Aging in French oak vats. On the nose you feel a spiciness reminiscent of graphite; it is wild in the mouth with its typical roughness. And they like it for its consistency with the grape variety. Whose grapes we find in Trasor 2020, together with syrah and petite rouge, for a classy red wine. So a cru, the Vallée d’Aoste Syrah 870, obtained from one of the first vineyards acquired in Saint-Christophe; ferments in French oak vats and amphora at a controlled temperature. 20 days post-fermentation maceration, pressing and aging in barrique. And here too, the fullness, the accentuated minerality, the caress of tannins, balance and intensity are surprising.
The exceptional is also surprising Vallée d’Aoste Pinot Noir 2020, which vinifies with fermentation in French oak vats at a controlled temperature and then 12 months of aging in French barriques. A Pinot Noir that you really don’t expect here in the Vallée. From its pale ruby color you can feel the pencil or the pure graphite, but also the pepper. In the mouth its diffused acidity is distinctive, with an appealing finish given by the tannins. A masterpiece.
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