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Articolo di Paolo Massobrio apparso sulla Stampa il 3 luglio 2014
Torrette Superieur e Cuvée de la Còte
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Articolo apparso sul New York Times il 7 marzo 2013

March 7, 2013
Treasures of the Alps
Of the many wrinkles in the Italian wine tapestry, one of the wrinkliest is about as far northwest as
you can go in Italy. There, tucked away in the Alps beneath looming Mont Blanc, the tallest peak in
the chain, is the smallest Italian viticultural region, brimming with little-known wines capable of
offering great pleasure.
The problem is not so much what to call this region, but in which language to express it. Along the
entire northern border of Italy, language and culture refuse to respect political boundaries. In
Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italian merges with Slovenian. In Tyrolean Alto Adige, it collides head-on
with German. And in the Alpine northwest, where Italy kisses both France and Switzerland in a
linguistic ménage-à-trois, it’s Italian-French.
On the label of any bottle of these Alpine wines, you may just as easily find the French Vallée
d’Aoste as the Italian Valle d’Aosta, two Romance language versions for what would be rendered
unromantically in English as the Aosta Valley. As it is technically in Italy, let’s call it Valle d’Aosta,
except where contradicted by a French-leaning label.
The Valle d’Aosta is a winding network of vineyards, some on dizzyingly steep slopes at the highest
elevations of any in Europe. The wines are by both tiny producers and bigger cooperatives, coming
from a few familiar grapes (pinot noir, nebbiolo, gamay) and a whole host you rarely see anywhere
else, like fumin and cornalin, petit rouge and prié, which is used to make the lively and floral but
wordy Vin Blanc de Morgex et de La Salle.
As much as I enjoy the white wines, I’ve been far more interested in the reds. Though somewhat
esoteric and made in small quantities, they have been showing up in the last few years on some of
the better Italian wine lists in New York. I had tried more than a few and found them generally to
be wonderfully distinctive, and good values.
Short of a visit to the Valle d’Aoste (now on the short list of future journeys), the best way to get a
sense of the region was to assemble the wine panel, so we sampled 20 reds from the Valle d’Aoste
from recent vintages. Florence Fabricant and I were joined by two guests, Aldo Sohm, chef
sommelier at Le Bernardin, and Charles Prusik, wine director at Lupa.
Any tasting like this is mostly educational. The glasses before us encompassed so many different
sorts of wines in such a hodgepodge of styles that coming out with a strict hierarchy of selections
was difficult. The takeaway was that these wines are well worth exploring.
The Wines of Valle d’Aosta, Treasures of the Alps -
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Without a doubt, many are rustic. By that I mean they tend to lack the polish of more renowned or
familiar regions, where possible flaws are eliminated and quirkiness is sometimes ironed out in
favor of homogeneity. Some of these wines had detectable characteristics often called flaws, like
volatile acidity, which might express itself as an acetone aroma, like nail polish remover, or aromas
of brettanomyces, a rogue yeast that can add a touch of what is often described as barnyard aroma.
Personally, I don’t object to either in mild doses, when they serve more as accents that add
Aldo was not as entranced by the wines. From a sommelier’s perspective, he was doubtful their
rusticity would meld well with the refined cuisine of Le Bernardin. Charles noted that such
rusticity would be expected among a group of mountain wines. Lupa, he said, embraced these sorts
of flavors.
What seemed to define the group to me was a kind of nervous Alpine character, a lively acidity,
pale color and lightness of touch that made the wines feel fresh and vivacious. They almost
demand to be served with food.
You can get a sense of the variety of flavors from Valle d’Aosta by looking at our top five wines. No.
1 was the 2010 Grosjean Frères cornalin, from the Rovettaz vineyard, a spicy, pleasantly textured,
slightly funky wine with intriguing exotic flavors. I don’t know much about the cornalin grape
except that it’s also planted in the Valais, in the Swiss Alps, where it’s called humagne rouge. Every
time I’ve had this wine in a restaurant, I’ve very much enjoyed it.
The cornalin was also our best value at $28. Most of these wines were $25 to $35, with a few
outliers in either direction. No, they’re not cheap, but between the small amount of wine made in
the Valle d’Aosta, and the difficulty of farming the region, they do not seem overpriced.
Our No. 2 wine, the 2008 Donnas Rosso Supérieur, was completely different. It came from the
town of Donnas, just across the border from Piedmont, where it was produced by a local
cooperative. Given the proximity to Piedmont, it not surprisingly is made largely of nebbiolo with a
little fumin. It was pure, forceful and modestly tannic, with perhaps a little more polish than the
other Donnas wine in the tasting, our No. 6 bottle, a 2007 rosso, mostly nebbiolo with a little freisa.
Nos. 3 and 5 were both 2010 Torrette Supérieurs, which must be at least 70 percent petit rouge.
No. 3, from Maison Anselmet, was a little more precise and complex, while No. 5, from Noussan,
was spicier and funkier, a gulpable wine that encourages you to keep drinking. That quality seems
to be built in to the Noussan wines. Our No. 10 wine, the 2010 Noussan Cuvé de la Côte, a field
blend of many different grapes, was simply straightforward and delicious .
The No. 4 bottle, the 2010 Enfer d’Arvier from Danilo Thomain, also made largely of the petit
rouge, offered still another expression with its wild, almost exotic fruit flavors. Enfer d’Arvier, by
the way, is a tiny sub-appellation, a bowl-shaped array of vineyards that concentrates the light in
The Wines of Valle d’Aosta, Treasures of the Alps -
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such a way that it was dubbed enfer d’Arvier, or hell of Arvier. Danilo Thomain produces a minute
quantity of wine, so we were lucky to have landed a bottle.
Nos. 7, 8 and 9 were all made with the fumin grape, which seems to offer slightly more structured,
earthy wines than the other grapes of the region. I once asked the importer Neal Rosenthal, who
brings in Grosjean, Danilo Thomain and Ermes Pavese, which red grape from the region had the
greatest potential. He said he thought it was fumin because it had more structure and complexity
than the others.
I’m not sure yet whether I agree with him. But I think I now have sufficient motivation to find out
for sure.
Tasting Report
Grosjean Frères, $28, ***
Vallée d’Aoste Cornalin Vigne Rovettaz 2010
Lovely, lightly spicy aromas, slightly exotic and a bit funky with a smooth, silky texture. (Rosenthal
Wine Merchant, New York)
Donnas, $32, ***
Vallée d’Aosta Rosso Supérieur Vieilles Vignes 2008
Clear nebbiolo flavors, unbridled and perhaps unpolished but with force and character. (Polaner
Selections, Mount Kisco, N.Y.)
Maison Anselmet, $30, ***
Vallée d’Aosta Torrette Supérieur 2010
Bright, floral and well balanced with earthy, mineral flavors. (Vias Imports, New York)
Danilo Thomain, $29, ***
Vallée d’Aosta Enfer d’Arvier 2010
Clean, complex and subtly exotic with wild fruit aromas and a touch of licorice. (Rosenthal Wine
Noussan, $27, ** ½
Vallée d’Aosta Torrette Supérieur 2010
Straightforward and gulpable with spicy, funky flavors. (Louis/Dressner Selections, New York)
Donnas, $20, ** ½
Vallée d’Aosta Rosso 2007
Well balanced, with earthy nebbiolo flavors, attractive texture and dusty tannins. (Polaner
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Lo Triolet, $34, ** ½
Vallée d’Aosta Fumin 2010
Tannic yet succulent, with plenty of bright, spicy fruit. (Michael Skurnik Wines, Syosset, N.Y.)
Di Barrò, $32, ** ½
Vallée d’Aosta Fumin 2009
Harmonious and energetic with dark fruit and earth tones. (Polaner Selections)
La Crotta di Vegneron, $30, ** ½
Vallée d’Aosta Fumin Esprit Follet 2010
Lively and highly aromatic with floral, herbal, earthy flavors. (Polaner Selections)
Noussan, $28, ** ½
Vin de Table Cuvé de la Côte 2010
Bright, fruity and delicious. (Louis/Dressner Selections)
The Wines of Valle d’Aosta, Treasures of the Alps -
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Valle D'Aosta TORRETTE 2011 D.O.C.  vino ottenuto con uve selezionate dei nostri vigneti di Saint Christophe i vtigni utilizzati sono:il 70% di Petit Rouge e il 30% di Fumin,Mayolet,Vien de Nus e Cornalin.

Di questo vino sono state prodotte 1800 bottiglie
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   VALLE D'AOSTA TORRETE SUPERIEUR 2011 D.O.C. vino ottenuto con uve slezionate nel vigneto del priorato di Saint Pierre, il 70% Petit Rouge e il 30% di Fumin.

Di questo vino sono state prodotte 1200 bottiglie.🤩
Cuvée de la Còte
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Articolo apparso sul New YorK Times nel 2006

Pinot Noirs Born Across the Tracks - New York Times 09/20/2006 08:39 AM Page 1 of 4
September 20, 2006
Pinot Noirs Born Across the Tracks
WHO says wine-lovers are insular? They embrace top-flight cabernet sauvignons from all over the world.
Chardonnays and sauvignon blancs, too, from Australia and South Africa, Italy and Argentina. Even the
dreaded merlot, from the right vineyard in Tuscany, for example, can inspire collectors to pay spectacular
But pinot noir? That darling little snookums of a grape that the world wants to give such a kiss? Well,
forget it. Unless it comes from Burgundy, or one of the few officially sanctioned New World outposts —
California, Oregon and New Zealand — nobody wants to hear about pinot nero, pinot negro,
spätburgunder or any name that it goes by outside the sway of the French language.
I understand. Like a shoulder rub, drinking good pinot noir produces a sensation so stimulating and
satisfying that you never want it to stop. And the odds against finding a good bottle are just high enough
to make the chase exciting.
Burgundy partisans would be deliriously happy to spend their lives exploring the wines of the Côte d’Or. If
this vintage is a washout, there’s always next year! Pinot noir fans in California (who say every year is
good) feel the same way, as I’m sure they do in Oregon and New Zealand. Why bother with anywhere else?
I used to feel this way too, until a few years back when I was introduced to the pinot neros of J.
Hofstätter, from the Alto Adige. I remember two meals, one in a little trattoria in Campania and another
in TriBeCa, where I seized on memories of that pinot nero after several other stabs at the wine list had
Both were single vineyard wines, from the Barthenau Vigna Santo Urbano. I remember how subtle they
were, pale ruby with aromas and flavors of minerals and earth, black cherry and cinnamon. They
insinuated themselves gently, prompting a double-take after a sip or two.
The memories of those wines opened my mind to an expanded vision of the world of pinot noir.
And yet, there is good reason to be skeptical of pinot noir from unfamiliar territory. Unlike cabernet and
chardonnay, pinot noir does not prosper most anywhere the sun shines. It requires a cooler climate, or at
the least, swings in temperature between the heat of the day and the cool of the night. It is picky about its
Pinot Noirs Born Across the Tracks - New York Times 09/20/2006 08:39 AM Page 2 of 4
The Dining section’s wine panel explored this lesser-known universe of pinot noirs in a tasting of 25
bottles. Florence Fabricant and I were joined by Juliette Pope, beverage director of Gramercy Tavern, and
Byron Bates, general manager of Bette.
We drew on wines from three continents, including two bottles each from Chile and Argentina, one from
South Africa, five from Italy, three from Austria and two from Germany. The rest came from France — five
from the Loire, four from Alsace and one from the Languedoc.
Like Burgundy, Alsace and Sancerre have long traditions of producing pinot noir, although only recently
have many of these wines been exported. The same is true in Austria, Germany and Italy, and further
searching might well have turned up bottles from the Jura, Switzerland, Slovenia and Hungary, where
pinot noir has also been grown, as well as newcomers like British Columbia and the Finger Lakes of New
York. Prices ranged from $10 to $54, very low for pinot noir from any corner of the earth.
How were they? Let’s just say that the panel has rarely been as divided.
I was excited. While there were no great bottles, many were balanced, dry and refreshing with intriguing
mineral, fruit and herbal flavors.
Florence disagreed. “If your benchmark is Burgundy, forget it,’’ she said. “The wines were generally
acceptable, but nothing soared.’’
Byron countered, “I think a tasting of Burgundy would’ve been more disappointing.’’ Juliette said that the
wines exceeded her expectations, but, she said, “I would have liked to see more balance and less oak.’’
Let’s get this out of the way. Burgundy lovers will not find the grace and complexity they yearn for, nor
will California lovers find the copious servings of sweet fruit they crave.
But room on the pinot noir spectrum must be made for wines like our No. 1, a 2003 spätburgunder from
August Kesseler in the Rheingau, which combined long-lasting flavors of black cherry, mint and earth. We
were lucky to happen on this wine; a change in importers has made it hard to find in the New York area.
Those who enjoy being bowled over by California pinot noirs will find most of these wines much lighterbodied
and lower in alcohol, in the range of 12.5 to 13.5 percent, which I think makes them easier to
The three Sancerres in particular were all light and unpretentious, built for immediate pleasure rather
than aging. Loire pinot noirs are like that, but I think this also indicates that even these esoteric pinot
noirs have their partisans; top age-worthy bottles are snapped up.
We could not find my old friend the Hofstätter Barthenau, though we did find the 2005 Hofstätter
Mezcan, a light, pleasant cuvée intended for early drinking.
Other standouts included a 2003 Luigi Bosca Reserva from Argentina, which had a graceful intensity
unusual for a $15 bottle of anything, and the 2004 Noussan from the Valle d’Aosta, a delicious wine made
Pinot Noirs Born Across the Tracks - New York Times 09/20/2006 08:39 AM Page 3 of 4
unusual for a $15 bottle of anything, and the 2004 Noussan from the Valle d’Aosta, a delicious wine made
in minute quantities . For sheer value, none were outdone by the fruity 2004 Jacques & François Lurton
from the Languedoc, a $10 steal.
What most of these wines lack is the aura of romance that envelops more familiar pinot noirs.
Where does that aura come from? The wine itself, or the intrigue that so many people find in the grape?
The world will never tire of the stories told by good bottles of Burgundy and its more familiar descendants.
But perhaps some distant cousins have tales worth hearing, too.
Tasting Report: Signature Notes of Cherry and Spice, Among Others
August Kesseler Rheingau Trocken 2003
Dry with rich fruit, earth and herbal aromas and lingering spice and mineral flavors. (Baum Wine
Imports, Bensenville, Ill.)
Luigi Bosca Reserva Mendoza Argentina 2003
Light yet intense, with complex fruit, floral and earth flavors. (Testa Wines of the World, Port
Washington, N.Y.)
Jacques & François Languedoc Les Salices 2004
Sweet berry aroma with clear pinot noir flavors that linger. (ExCellars Wine Agencies, Solvang, Calif.)
Noussan Valle d’Aosta Cuvée de la Côte 2004
Earthy, floral aromas; dry with long-lasting blackberry, herbal and mineral flavors. (Louis/Dressner
Selections, New York)
Domaine Sautereau Sancerre Côtes de Reigny 2003
Soft and ripe with balanced floral and mineral flavors; Burgundy at a distance. (Baron François, New
Domaine Martin Sancerre Chavignol 2004
Pinot Noirs Born Across the Tracks - New York Times 09/20/2006 08:39 AM Page 4 of 4
Light with bright fruit and herbal flavors; soft but full of pleasure. (David Bowler Wine, New York)
La Poussie Sancerre 2001
Sour cherry aroma with a pleasing funkiness; nice mineral flavors. (Maisons Marques & Domaines,
Oakland, Calif.)
J. Hofstätter Alto Adige Mezcan 2005
Light, simple and tempting; easy to enjoy right now. (Domaine Select Wine Estates, New York)
Leth Austria Reserve 2003
Black cherry and herbal flavors well integrated with oak. (Domaine Select Wine Estates, New York)
Bodega Catena Zapata Mendoza Argentina Alamos 2005
California-style, with sweet, sappy cherry and oak flavors. (Billington Imports, Springfield, Va.)
Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company
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