Piero Brunet / Blanc de Morgex et de La Salle
Prié Blanc / Morgex, Valle d’Aosta, Italy 2017
GRAPE: PRIÉ BLANC [pree-yay blahn]
Prié blanc gets a double gold star for being the oldest native grape in Valle d’Aosta and the very highest planted in Europe. It makes a beautiful sparkling wine as well (third gold star) – it’s simply that there is not enough of it to go around. Historical records are very thorough in this area and point to one very important fact: Prié Blanc is the only vine that was able to survive the extreme cold temperatures in this far reaching corner of the Aosta Valley. It is as delicate as meadow flowers and crisp as freshly melted snow dew, with piercing acidity and full bodied elegance. Ian d’Agata calls it “Italy’s best light-bodied white” – a warranted hyperbole for this brave blanc!
GROWER: Piero Brunet took over his family’s vineyards in 1985, and at the same time he acquired some of the oldest plantings of Prié Blanc. Piero, his wife, and their two daughters organically farm just under a hectare (2.5 acres) at supremely high altitude (3900 ft.) on superlatively steep terraces. The growing season is so short and the summer so temperate that the vines are pergola-trained very close to the ground to absorb just a hint of heat from sunlight reflected off the stone. These own-rooted vines yield just over 300 cases of the Blanc de Morgex, the family’s only wine. What an honor to drink the legacy of this alpine grape, sprung from the highest mountain vineyards, thanks to the folks who cling to their slopes.
GLASS: Sooooper herbal wine to the point of being almost perplexing. Rosemary and tarragon are the first things that come to mind, but there is also that wonderful descriptor that makes most Americans smirk with nostalgia: fresh cut grass. Underripe apricots and blushing quince are the fruit characteristics that shine through on the palate, even though clearly this wine is not remotely one that can be described as ‘fruit forward.’ The minerality screams “crunchy waterfalls”… as abstract as it gets, yes, but not if you think about the terrain of Aosta. Picture icy falls made from melted glaciers, frozen in time and cascading from the extreme cliffs of this picturesque alpine valley. See? Crunchy.
SIDE NOTES: Morgex and la Salle are neighboring villages at the base of Mont Blanc in the highest part of the Valley, making them the very highest vineyards in Europe at about 4,300 feet. Dizzyingly delicious.