Whenever the depth of winter creeps its way in I find myself reaching for a smaller and smaller group of red wines. Where Burgundy, Loire, Rhone, Piedmont, and Tuscany are mainstays throughout the fall there comes a time about now when I start craving something wild, different, and immensely soothing. The alpine vineyards in France and Italy just south of Switzerland are the place I continually turn, and they continually deliver exactly what I'm looking for. These moments are frustrating in the sense that each of these three producers should have their wines opened with regularity 12 months a year. However, it's now that we need to take a close look at the best of what the vineyards at the base of the Alps have to offer.
Like her family before her, Elisabetta Foradori focuses primarily on Teroldego, the indigenous red grape grown at the base of the Dolomite mountains in northeast Italy. The decision she made to shift from industrial farming to an organic and biodynamic model in 2000 elevated her family's estate onto the world's stage.
Foradori's Teroldegos are the kinds of wines that you'd like to see on the list at every restaurant you frequent, as its versatility is remarkable. It opens with notes of dark plums, licorice, and heady roasted flavor, then softens allowing more floral and herbaceous qualities to come to the forefront. From first sip to that last these wines of Elisabetta are always changing, and fascinating to no end.
2011 Foradori Teroldego IGT
From gravelly soils, aged in a combination of neutral barrels and stainless steel.
$27 per bottle.
2013 Foradori Sgarzon Teroldego IGT
Darker and more concentrated, with more black fruits, black licorice, and wild savory spices.
From sandy soils. 8 months macerating in amphore, with further aging in large neutral barrel.
$46 per bottle.
2013 Foradori Granato Teroldego IGT
From fine silt and gravel soils, aged in neutral barrels.
The most refined and understated. Textured and creamy, black cherry, dark plums, and mint.
$66 per bottle.
The Grojean family have been farming their vineyards in the mountains of Italy's Valle D'Aoste for generations, but it wasn't until 1969 that they were recognized at a local expo and the wines began to be exported. Importer Neal Rosenthal is dialed into the alpine vineyards throughout northern Italy like no one else. His portfolio is so diverse with talents like Jean-Marie Fourrier, Jacques Carillon, and Montevertine, but it's these smaller, more modestly priced producers from esoteric regions that define the brilliance of his band of vignerons.
The village of Fornet in the Valle D'Aoste sits in the shadow of the towering Mont Blanc. As you can imagine the high altitude conditions provide a snap and clarity to the wines here. Torrette Supériur is sourced from the Rovettaz vineyard comprised largely of sandy-clay soils. The native variety Petit Rouge makes up 85% of the blend, with 10% Furmin and 5% Cornalin. The wine is aged in stainless steel preserving the bright and electric fruit personality. Black raspberry, red licorice, and wild herbs all meld together here to craft an absolutely delicious wine completely reflective of its unique place.
2010 Grosjean Torrette Supérieur Vigne Rovettaz
$24 per bottle.
Domaine Belluard is home to the most thrilling and complete wines in France's Savoie. Dominique Belluard took over his family's vineyards in 1988, at that time the estate was also home to dairy cows, apples, and a mix of agriculture. Just 30 miles from Mont Blanc the village of Ayse is greatly influenced by the towering Alps, but plantings for all of the vineyards are kept at a relative low altitude to allow for maximum ripening.
In addition to Dominique's monumental Mont Blanc sparkling wine, he produces Mondeuse, a native red variety of the region. Of all Dominique's wines his Mondeuse is the rarest with less than one hectare planted. This wine in fermented and aged in amphore and sees no oak or steel at any point of aging. Mondeuse shows a vivid purple quality that calls to mind both Syrah a Gamay. This stands out for its pitch perfect balance, and absolutely singular notes of wild herbs and beaming purple and black fruit characteristics. Their is a softness to the wine that makes it just so easy to drink, but it's structure and mineral backbone is still totally present and vivid. Allocations of this wine are usually less than 12 bottles per year. We were lucky enough to secure a few different vintages here. These wines age beautifully, as primary fruit softens and notes of wild flowers and minerality come more to the forefront.
2014 Domaine Belluard Mondeuse
$57 per bottle.
2013 Domaine Belluard Mondeuse
$57 per bottle.
2012 Domaine Belluard Mondeuse
$57 per bottle.