Let’s return to visit Valle d’Aosta: both the smallest region in Italy, and home to the highest altitude wine-growing area in all of Europe. Situated in the northwestern corner of the country, this region is surrounded by the Graian and Pennine Alps. This mountain range is shared with neighboring Switzerland and France; it’s only natural that Italian and French are equally spoken in the region. Here, we have some of the highest mountain peaks of Europe: Mont Blanc, Cervino, Monte Rosa –- all above 13,000 feet. In the valley below lies Aosta, the region’s capital and main city. The valley is crossed by the Dora Baltea River, a tributary of the Po, Italy’s main river. The climate is continental with a cold winter and long snow season; It’s constantly freezing above 11,500 feet. At this altitude, you can even find glaciers –- although many of them are shrinking due to climate change.
In the valley, at a lower altitude, the summers can reach very high temperatures; along the walls of the valley, we see vineyards climbing up to grab soil from the rocks. Here the viticulteurs fight against the harsh terrain to gain a few meters for their vines. You may remember us mentioning the term heroic agriculture; here, it is more appropriate than ever. To plant and grow here, you have to be part-farmer and part-mountaineer. Franco Noussan is exactly this: a professor in agronomy by title, and a grower-garagiste winemaker by choice. Inside his bottles exists a small world of hard work that evokes the spirit of the mountain.
Elio Longobardi, Italian Wine Specialist
PlumpJack Wine & Spirits – Noe Valley
About Noussan Viticulteur Encaveur, the Winery
Franco Noussan left a steady job in public administration to pursue what started as a hobby, and became his real passion. With his wife, Gabriella, he acquired 1.5 hectares on the right slopes of the valley where some older vines were already planted. When asked how old those vines are, he replies “I don’t know, but definitely older than me”; that means at least 50 years old.
All the grapes planted are indigenous to the region: Fumin, Petit Rouge, Mayolet, Vien du Nus, Cornalin, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Noir. The last two most likely came from France, the neighbor just across the mountains, but have been in the valley for so long that they are rightly considered part of the regional heritage.
Noussan’s farming practice is definitely organic, even though he has never sought the certification. As a matter of fact, Franco’s farming and winemaking approach is more in line with the natural wine movement.
About the Winemaking for Noussan Blanc du Tzanté Vin Blanc 2016
100% Pinot Gris. The wine is named for the village of Tzanté where the
Noussan parcels are located at a 600-750 meters altitude. The fruit is farmed organically and manually harvested. The grapes are de-stemmed and gently pressed with a hand press. The juice is settled naturally and fermentation is with natural yeasts in steel tanks. The wine is aged on the lees in tanks without stirring for 6 months before bottling.
The wine shows a yellow color with copper hues. The nose offers reminders of golden apple, bosc pear, and sandy wet soil. Bright acidity upfront that cleans the palate, leaving the fruity and mineral notes we detected before. A pleasant salinity on the finish.
About the Winemaking for Noussan Cuvèe de la Côte 2014
Cuvée de la Côte is a field blend wine made from grapes planted in 1970 at 600 meters of altitude (about 1969 ft above sea level) in clay sandy soil. The grapes are harvested manually during the first ten days of October. After being softly pressed, the fruit spends 10 to 15 days in fiberglass barrels where a spontaneous fermentation takes place.
The wine ages for 8 months in a stainless steel tank, and spends 3 more months in the bottle before release.
All of Franco’s wines are unfiltered. For this reason, we recommend opening and decanting this bottle one hour before serving to avoid some sediment.
Red garnet color. The nose gets hints of pomegranate, cranberry, and jujubes fruit. The first sip confirms those impressions. Another sip and you want to know more. Franco’s wines are the reflection of the extreme landscape where they come from.