Italian regions
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    Valle d'Aosta

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    The valley of truly heroic vineyards
    The Valle d’Aosta, a land of splendid Alpine landscapes, in the smallest and least populated of the Italian regions. In this area, there are a few, truly heroic, vineyards, in which the plants grow on land stolen from the mountains. Here, the hand of man has reshaped the landscape, by building dry stone walls to protect the slopes against erosion and expand the areas suitable for cultivation.
    Vines are grown along the Dora Baltea river, from Pont-Saint-Martin (at 300 metres above sea level) to Morgeux (beneath Mont Blanc). In these zone, the vines, growing at 1200 metres above sea level among larches and firs, reach their upper limit of survival.
    The wines of the region are mainly made from indigenous grape varieties which have become accustomed to the extreme climate in the course of the centuries. The most important of these is the priè blanc - a phylloxera survivor - which is used to make Blanc de Morgex et de La Salle (one of Europe's highest wines).
    Unique rather than merely rare in their flavour qualities, the wines from black grapes are an essential tasting experience. These varieties are mainly grown in the mid-height sections of the valley, and include the petit rouge, fumin and vien-de-Nus, which are used to make such wines as Enfer d’Arvier, Torrette and Nus.
    In the lower part of the valley, which leads towards the Piedmont region, the main variety is Nebbiolo, known here as Picotendro or Picoutener, used to make the famous Donnas, one of the region's finest wines.
    Although it's by no means easy to find due to the very limited production, lovers of dessert wines will be enchanted by the Muscat-based Chambave. The best wines of the Aosta region belong to a single Denominazione di Origine: Valle d’Aosta (or Vallée d’Aoste D.O.C. in French, the other official language of the region), divided into the various sub-zones. For obvious reasons, production is very limited, and the area dedicated to vineyards is no more than 700 hectares.
    Author: Stefano Francavilla.