LES CRÈTES – CONSTANTINO CHARRÈRE, Aymavilles
The vine has been cultivated in the Aosta Valley since the Roman period or perhaps even earlier, if various legends can be believed. According to those stories, the Salassi, who lived in the region before the Romans conquered it because of its strategic value, were already making wines from grapes grown in their own vineyards.
It is known with certainty that in 23 BC the Roman legions crushed a rebellion by the valley’s inhabitants and celebrated their victory by looting all the cellars of their wine.
It was during the Middle Ages, however, that the wines of the Aosta Valley established a
widespread reputation. And they acquired something of a “sacral” character as well because, according to numerous reports, they were used in the rite of exorcism.
The physical layout of the valley favours the cultivation of vines because the mountains tend to block or turn aside the coldest winds, thereby creating suitable microclimates in which grapes have flourished since the remotest times. In the second half of the 19th century, the phylloxera epidemic devastated the Aosta Valley vineyards over a period of many years.
Fortunately, although the devastation was enormous, destruction was not total. The vineyards slowly revived and flourished anew. The only lasting setback was the disappearance of several vine varieties.
Donnaz was the valley’s first DOC wine, receiving that recognition in 1971. The following year, it was the turn of Enfer d’Arvier. Although other wines were in line and qualified to receive the DOC designation, all further movement was halted until 1985 while a plan was worked out to place all regional wines of fine quality under the common denomination of Valle d’Aosta.
Costantino Charrère is the driving force in the region. In the manner of Robert Plageoles he is the archivist and grape detective, seeking out native grape varieties on the verge of extinction and preserving their peculiar qualities in a host of wonderful wines made at his family winery and the famous Les Crètes venture that he runs in partnership with other well known figures from the region.
The Petite Arvine, resident in Switzerland, provides here a lovely dry white with aromas of spring flowers. The wine displays a brilliant straw yellow colour; the nose reveals intense, clean, pleasing, elegant and refined aromas beginning with honey, elder and pineapple followed by banana, hawthorn, apple, broom, pear and peach.