Alpine Elixirs: Unveiling Aosta Valley’s High Elevation Wines at Rosset Terroir.
Many wine enthusiasts carry an inborn fascination for wines from high elevation vineyards. That is not only because of the mind-blowing idea of grapes growing at great heights. At higher altitudes the diurnal range is higher, contributing preservation of natural freshness and grape own aromas. Higher elevation wines do contain natural freshness and tension. Thinking of high-altitude wines, production area’s like Salta in Argentina or Elqui in Chile easily come to the mind. But let us not forget about Europe. This summer we visited Europe’s highest wine production area: the Italian Aosta Valley. In a spectacular alpine setting we attended the advanced Aostian winery Rosset Terroir. In this article we take you to the characteristic mountainous Valle d’Aosta.
About the Region
“Aosta Valley: Europe’s Lofty Vineyards and the Legacy of Bilingual Terroir”
The Aosta Valley is a situated in the most north eastern corner of Italy. Shaped by the river Dora Baltea, the valley lies at the foot of Europe’s highest mountain: Mont Blanc. Surrounded by the Alps highest peaks, Aosta is home to Europe’s highest vineyards. Vineyards in Aosta are mostly located at south facing steep slopes, with altitudes easily reaching towards 1,000 meters above sea level or even higher. The soils are mainly rocky and alluvial, with soil types like slate, granite and quartz.
In these extreme mountainous circumstances, it is where lovers of pure and unconventional wines will indulge themselves. In this smallest wine production area of Italy – 50 produces do cultivate 650 hectares of vineyards – one would find wines of indigenous grapes with crystalline precision. Although the Aosta Valley since 1861 officially belongs to Italy, it has a strong historical connection to France. For a long period of time Aosta was part of the Kingdom of Burgundy. The region still is bilingual – they speak Italian and French – and next to native varieties like Petit Arvine and Cornalin one will find French species like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Despite the alpine position, located at the south side of the Alps the Aosta Valley is blessed with a high amount of sunshine and relatively low rainfall. Whereas in the past winemakers struggled ripening the grapes, due to changing climatic circumstances ripening nowadays is not an issue anymore. Due to the tough viticultural circumstances and necessarily manual cultivation, it is easy to imagine the natural Aostian focus on quality over quantity. Although the wines are mainly sold in Italy itself, during our visit we noticed an increased external curiosity. The recently established Consorzio Vini Valle d’Aosta is endeavouring catching the attention of the international wine market.
About the Winery
“From Roman Ruins to Alpine Excellence: The Evolution of Rosset Terroir Winery”
Based in a modern state of the art winery, Rosset Terroir has an agricultural history. For decades it has cultivated agricultural products like raspberry, genepy and saffron, intended for local liqueurs. By the turn to the 20th century Rosset started its own distillery called Saint Roch. From this place build on a formal Roman ruin, by the turn of the millennium Cesare and Nicola Rosset decided to plant vines. That decision would mark the beginning of a successful alpine wine story called Rosset Terroir.
Where the Rosset family started planting two hectares of Chardonnay, Syrah and Cornalin in Saint-Christophe, nowadays the production of 12 hectares is spread out over production areas in Saint-Christophe, Villeneuve and Chambave. Chambave is home of Moscato Bianco, whereas Chardonnay, Cornalin and Petit Rouge are planted in Saint-Cristophe. Ranging from 800 meters above sea level (Chambave) to 1.000 meters above sea level (Villeneuve) the altitude of all of the vineyards of Rosset Terroir is dazzling.
Directed by oenologist Matteo Moretto and accompanied by Carole Bich Rosset Terroir nowadays produces about 55.000 bottles of wine. In the modern and clean winery, one will find a high amount of stainless-steel fermentation tanks and some amphora and Orcio Toscano. In the cellar new and used barriques (225 litres), tino’s (2.000 litres) and tonneaux (5.000 litres) can be found, intended for aging the top cuvees. In 2019 Rosset Terroir was awarded with a Tastevin AIS award and in 2021 their Sopraquota 900 was awarded as ‘Best Italian White Wine’ by Gambero Rosso. The conversion to organic certification will be completed soon.
About the Wines
We had the pleasure to taste the whole assortment of Rosset Terroir. In general, all of the wines of Rosset Terroir are focused and precise, with a remarkable and exciting salinity. Supported by the altitude of the vineyards, the wines do contain a beautiful natural freshness, which is best reflected in the wines from the highest altitude vineyards. After all, the most beautiful flowers grow along the ridge of the abyss.
In this article we are discussing a number of wines from both Rosset’s White and Black line. The Prémisse 2020, Petit Arvine 2020 and Chambave Muscat 2020 out of the white label line are available in the Netherlands (through Vinites) these three wines will also be posted separately in our review section.
White Label Line
Rosset Terroir – Prémisse 2020
The entry level white of Rosset Terroir is called Prémisse and the 2020 vintage is made out of 50% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Gris and 10% Chambave Muscat from all of the production areas in the Aosta Valley where Rosset is active. The wine is vinified fully and only in stainless steel.
The result is a medium golden yellow wine, showing aromas of ripe lime, (dried) mountain flowers, flower honey, herbal tea, fennel and wet rock. On the palate the attack of yellow tree fruit, red apple, melon and yellow plum is generous and filling. We wine is worn by a compact structured core and lively acids are leading into an herbal medium long-lasting savoury aftertaste.
The Rosset Terroir Prémisse 2020 is a well-balanced and catching entrée level white wine with character and tension. We reward it with a beautiful 88-point DWA score.
Aosta Valley – Petite Arvine 2020
The grapes for the Rosset Terroir Petite Arvine 2020 are coming from a 600 metre a.s.l. high vineyard called Devin Ros in the production area of Montjovet. The vinification finds place in stainless steel.
The nose of this medium citrus yellow wine does show fresh and light flowery and herbal impressions, with a pleasant soft touch. Fruit aromas of white and yellow peach, grapefruit and red apple appear, together with flowery aroma’s like blossom, jasmine and fresh picked mountain flowers and some fragrant herbal tones like rhubarb, bergamot, sage, white pepper and fresh drawn herbal tea.
The attack gives a satisfying filling of concentrated white fruits, followed by medium acids and a dense and grippy texture. Most striking is the wonderful reverberating minerality and saltiness. Concentrated juicy fruit like melon and golden kiwi enter the long-lasting aftertaste, together with some nice zest bitters.
We reward this exciting and blissful white wine with a nice 91-point DWA score.
Rosset Terroir – Chambave Muscat 2020
The Muscat grapes are coming from vineyards called Champlan and La Meyaz in the production area of Chambave. The vines with an average age of 40 years are planted up to 800 meters above sea level. After a cold maceration the grapes are fermented in amphora, undergoing skin contact.
The pale citrus yellow wine is extremely aromatic. Typical Muscat aromas of grape and flowers do fill the nose, but in a fresh a precise way. Herbal and citrus like aromas dominates the bouquet with aromas like pickled lemon, yuzu, kumquat, lime zest, tangerine, together with passion fruit, coriander, white flowers, elderflower and a touch of wet clay.
The wine is fundamentally linear, light and clear, with rounded edges and a soft touch tickling the palate. Herbal citrus flavours are accompanied by delicate acids and a refined granular texture. Thin layers of flavours are opening up more and more. The long-lasting aftertaste confirms the distinguished soul of this wine, neither being noisy nor shy.
We reward the chic and gastronomic wine with an excellent 93-point DWA score.
Black Label Line
Note: the number after the name of the grapes indicates the (maximum) altitude of the vineyard.
Rosset Terroir – Chardonnay 770 2021
Chardonnay from 770 metres a.s.l. high vineyard in the production area Thuvex (Saint Christophe). Spontaneous fermentation and 12 months aging in new French barriques. Interesting Burgundy-like herbal and yeasty (slightly reductive) nose. Juicy lemon, wild peach, balanced oak use, compact slightly tannic core and a quite linear and juicy freshness.
We award this outstanding alpine expression of Chardonnay with a 93-point DWA score.
Rosset Terroir – Pinot noir 850 2020
Pinot Noir from a 850 metre a.s.l. high vineyard in Saint-Pierre. Fermentation in 2.000 litres tino and 12 months of aging in second and third used barriques. Fresh fruit forward aromas of wild strawberry and currant, accompanied by pleasant earthy and farmyard like notes. Delicate and fresh, compact structured and a long-lasting aftertaste.
We award this delightful high elevation Pinot Noir with a 93-point DWA score.
Rosset Terroir – Syrah 870 2020
Syrah from a 870 meter high vineyard in the production area Senin (Saint-Christoph). Partly fermented in amphora and Orca Toscana. Ripe and clean black fruit like bramble and blackcurrant. Earthy, green herbaceous, nutmeg and green leaves. Nice balance between the velvet ripe fruit and the punchy acids, giving the wine a certain preciseness. Noticeable alcohol (14,5%). The wine holds the middle between a northern Rhône and southern Rhône style Syrah, completed with a nice alpine vibrancy.
Truly a wine on its own, we reward this blockbuster with an excellent 93-point DWA score.
Rosset Terroir – Sopraquota 900 2021
100% Petite Arvine from the 2 hectares over 900 metres a.s.l. high steep vineyard Cumiod (Villeneuve). The appellation ends at 700 metres a.s.l, reason why this wine is not bottled as Valle d’Aosta DOC. The name Sopraquota stand for ‘above the limit’. Partly fermented in stainless steel, partly in amphora, partly in Orcio Toscana and partly in barrique. Complex nose of sweet tangerine, grapefruit, jasmine and wet stone. Wonderful exciting expression of Petite Arvine. Ripe but fresh fruits, salty, mineral, concentrated, clean, refined, complex and long lasting. This really is top notch. No wonder in 2021 Gambero Rosso awarded the Sopraquota as best Italian white wine.
A unique wine deserves a unique score. We reward this above the limit white with an outstanding 94-point DWA score.
Rosset Terroir impressed us with a very good impression of the potential of the Aosta Valley. The high-quality wines from both international as indigenous varieties did leave us the impression of the beauty of the high peaks of the Alps. Wines from high elevation vineyards were as crisp and precise as fresh bottled glacier water. Considering the growing conditions, we foresee a bright future for Aosta. Aosta features possibilities to adapt to rising temperatures and keep on making crisp wines. All in all, we believe the Aosta Valley is a wine growing area to keep an eye on.
This article and the reviews are written by our own Hermen Jansen. The wines of Rosset Terroir are imported in the Netherlands by Vinites. We thank Vinites for arranging the apportionment. We thank Rosset Terroir for the wonderful visit and tasting. In particular we thank Martina Viérin for her time and well-organized introduction to the wines of Rosset Terroir.