Valle d‘Aosta, which is better known as the Aosta Valley outside of its native Italy, is one of the most prestigious winemaking regions in all of Italy. The area is well-known for crafting excellent vintages that are quite unlike anything else currently on the market, which is likely a result of the fact that its people are still fiercely independent.
In fact the region is considered to be semi-autonomous, which means that it relies on self-governing as much as it does the governing of Italy as a country. Located at the northern end of the country the region also shares borders with a number of other countries, including France and Switzerland.
The area itself is known for having a very small population given its overall size. This may be due to the fact that much of the region is mountainous and thus fairly difficult to inhabit but the fact remains that with a population of only 128,000 people over an area of 1,260 square miles the Aosta Valley is the most thinly populated region in all of Italy.
The region continues to show a unique side by also being the only region in Italy to not have a single province. This was not always the case, as Aosta was the major province of the region until it was dissolved in 1945, but it demonstrates again that the people of the Aosta Valley do things their own way, which is a philosophy that has certainly influenced the wines that are produced in the region.
Instead the region is divided into 74 comuni that are overseen by the regional government. Further separating it from the pack is the fact that the region actually considers both Italian and French to be the native languages. This likely has a lot to do with the border with France. Interestingly, while these mainstream languages are considered the native tongue, perhaps a better contender is the Valdôtain language, which is native to the region and is spoken by many of its inhabitants.
As mentioned previously this fiercely individualistic streak that embodies much of the region has also gone a long way to defining the wines that are developed in its mountainous terrain. In fact many would argue that some of the best Italian wine comes from the region and there is certainly at least one that has won plenty of awards for its quality.
A Brief History
The region was first populated by the Celts and Ligures, however it was not until 25 B.C. that the Romans invaded and conquered the region, setting the foundations for many of the cultural influences that would define the Aosta Valley today.
In fact even the name harkens back to the Roman period, most literally translating as the “Valley of Augustus”. For a number of centuries afterwards the region remained mostly autonomous, though it was conquered at various points by the Goths and Burgundians. Eventually the Franks conquered the region and it became a part of the Lotharingian Kingdom of Italy.
The region eventually fell under the control of the Savoy and remained that way for many years, despite occasional invasions from the likes of the French that likely played a large part in many of the current natives knowing the language.
Eventually the region became part of the new Kingdom of Italy in 1861, which placed it under overall Italian rule by the time that Mussolini came to power.
The region was forced for perhaps the first time to lose its autonomous status as Mussolini enforced a programme of Italianization on the population, moving Italian speaking workers into the region and changing the language of all toponyms.
While many people left the region during this time, it was granted semi-autonomous status again in the aftermath of the war. Ever since then it has continued to operate in the same fashion, remaining independent throughout and using the vast history of the region to inform its overall culture.
The name may be something of a mouthful but the wine itself is one of the best that will ever pass your lips. This particular Chambave is one of the most popular in the region and is quickly developing a reputation throughout Europe for its quality. For those who don’t know about the Chambave Moscato Passito production methods, this is a wine that is a little unlike anything else produced in the Chambave comune. The wine is considered a straw wine and is made from the same grapes that give is the gorgeous Chambave Moscato white wine. However in this case the grapes are left to dry to the point that they become raisins and are aged in wood for around two years before being made available to the public.
This creates a wine that is almost completely unique to the taste and in fact the wine has won a number of awards over the years, with the 2008 vintage receiving a silver award at the Decanter World Wine Awards, which is a definite achievement for any wine. This followed on from the 2007 vintage, which received a commendation. If nothing else it demonstrates the desire to improve the drink over time and ensure that drinkers can enjoy a top quality wine.
This quality is somewhat reflected in the price however and the vintage is amongst the highest priced Chambave wines from the region. Though this may put some people off, bear in mind that this price is there for a reason as the wine is widely regarded as one of the best to be produced in the Aosta Valley.
This quality has told in regards to the sales of wine outside of its native country as well, as many top wine stores throughout Europe are list various vintages at this moment in time, ensuring that even more people can become aware of this spectacular wine. Over time it is likely that its popularity will grow and, with it, the demand for more of the same. Winemaking is one of the few growing industries in Italy today and much of the thanks can be given to online stores for making such unique wines as this available to the general consumer.