The 2009 Arnad Montjovet from La Kiuva is an excellent embodiment of the Vallée d'Aosta. Just as the picturesque valley is caught between cultures, this Arnad Montjovet cannot quite decide between personalities.
Though the Vallée d'Aosta is Italian by political tradition, the culture is particularly Alpine, more comparable to Switzerland than to anywhere else. And for good reason: the region, nestled as it is between France, Switzerland, and the rest of Italy, includes slopes of such icons as the Matterhorn, Mont Blanc (the highest peak in the Alps), and many others. About seventy percent of the people speak French, some speak Valdôtain (a distinct Romance language native to the area), and there is even a minority of Walser German speakers. These people really pay taxes to Rome and not to Bern? On the other hand, everyone speaks Italian and the region is no further from the Ligurian Coast than Manhattan is from Montauk. Alright then.
In accordance with Italian DOC regulations, Arnad Montjovet is about seventy percent Nebbiolo with a great miscellany of grapes comprising the rest. The 2009 from La Kiuva errs on the transparent side of red – limpid, almost – and with a slight but unmistakable purple tinge when viewed from the right angle. Let's call it carmine. It opens with a nice, deep berry scent. One can just smell the tannins, and some spice. When sipped, the wine proceeds to offer two versions of itself at once. It is light, fluffy, and mellow on the tongue, the way that a wine from a Mediterranean country should be. And it is spicy, very biting, on the palate, the way that a wine from a harsh, mountainous region should be. Well, which type of wine is it? Whence does it wish to come? Silly questions. It does not have to make any kind of definitive choice any more than the Vallée d'Aosta herself does, and one can be sure that neither is in any hurry to settle the question one way or the other.
The flavor notes are of fresh fruit, particularly citrus. There is a little tang to the wine, and a little sweetness as well. For the finish, the red fruits appear, as do tannins. Some bite appears on the way down; clearly, the wine does not wish to go quietly into the night, and its Alpine side is putting up a valiant struggle, but to us higher mortals it manifests as a mere amusing hint of spice.
After aerating for twenty minutes, the Arnad Montjovet has mellowed out. The easygoing side wins; evidently, even hardy mountain folk need a Mediterranean vacation after a while. The nose remains unchanged but the palate has lost its bite. The flavors and tannins float around smoothly. The finish, too, has turned pacific.
One of the benefits of a wine that cannot make up its mind is a great versatility in pairing. (One might fear that the inverse can lead to a downside, but it works out the good way with the La Kiuva.) The three dishes with which I came up are chicken parmigiana, rack of lamb, and tortellini bolognese. But truly, this Arnad Montjovet can work great with most any meat, poultry, or red sauce dish. I encourage my dear readers to discover as much for themselves.