The Valle d’Aosta is Italy’s smallest region, bordering France, Switzerland and the Italian (major wine-producing) region of Piemonte to its south. The French language is widely spoken here. French grape varieties coexist with Italian. Nebbiolo, called Picotentro, is the leader in terms of reputation, Petit Rouge, which makes fruity red wines akin to Beaujolais, the most prolific. Chardonnay, Petite Arvine (white), Fumin (spicy red), Prie Blanc (white), and Pinot Noir, Vien de Nus (blending red), Dolcetto, Gamay, Moscato, and Pinot Grigio are also important. The wine growing region here centers on the valley of the Dora Baltea River, a tributary of the Po, which runs north to south. The vineyards cling to the lower slopes. The Alps act as a rain shadow, bringing warm, dry summers but with chilly nights. The chill is good to a point as it preserves acidity, but at this climate extreme it can damage the vines. Many vines are trained onto high pergolas to most effectively absorb heat rising upward from the ground at night. On the thin rocky soils here, vines work hard to reach water and nutrients. Winemakers work equally hard.
Valle d’Aosta has seven DOCs and no DOCGs. Nus DOC, near the town of Aosta produces a red wine made from Petit Rouge and Vien de Nus, and a white Pinot Grigio. Just to the east of Nus, Chambave DOC produces an herbaceous red from Petite Rouge and whites from Moscato Bianco in both dry and sweet versions. Tiny Enfer d’Arvier DOC in the west of the region makes a rustic red from Petite Rouge. Morgex et de la Salle DOC in the extreme north, near Mont Blanc, is, at up to 4200 feet, probably Europe’s highest vineyard area. The stone walls around the small individual plots here help to insulate the vines. Morgex makes a delicate white wine from the Prie Blanc grape. Valle d’Aosta’s easternmost area, the Donnas DOC, produces a Nebbiolo as does the Arnad-Montjovet DOC. In both these cases the Nebbiolo is a little less demanding than, say, a Barolo from Piedmont. The largest area, Torrete DOC, makes a medium-bodied floral red from Petite Rouge.