Why Didier Gerbelle is Essential
To many students of Italian wine, Valle d’Aosta is the final frontier. Italy’s smallest region is also its smallest producer of wine, and what you can find is limited in quantity. There is no comparison or easy reference point to the wines of Valle d’Aosta. They are in a class by themselves. Much of this has to do with extreme geographic isolation. Some vineyards are so high in altitude that phylloxera said “forget it, you’re not worth the trouble,” a fact that spared Valle d’Aosta’s grape diversity. Small family farms — and the lack of a powerful, Cavit-like co-op with eyes on the international market — have further helped to preserve this unique viticultural ecosystem.
From my explorations of the region, this small family estate stands out. Didier Gerbelle represents an exciting potential future for Valle d’Aosta wine. His winery wasn’t established until 2006, but he is a fourth generation winegrower whose natural habitat seems to be the alpine vineyard. At a very young age he tagged along with his grandfather in the vines, then attended oenology school in Alba. Today, he is on a mission to make pure varietal expressions of his home region’s grapes.
If Valle d’Aosta’s unique wine industry can foster more young talents and visionaries like Gerbelle, we’ll be talking more and more about in the ensuing years.
Wines to Seek Out
This may be the smallest producer on our list of Essential Winemakers. They’re top bottle on wine-searcher.com — the “Vigne Tsancognein” Torrette — ranks 181,631st in terms of popularity, and if you want to buy their wine in the United States, you’ll likely have to order it from a coastal market wine shop. But, what you’ll find is a series of exciting red wines with currant-like fruit and secondary aromas of autumn leaves, as well as an uncommon white wine from an all-too-commonplace grape.
Didier Gerbelle “Vigne Tsancognein” Valle d’Aosta Torrette
The “Vigne Tsancognein” Torrette (a blend of mostly Petit Rouge with some Fumin, Cornalin and Prié Rouge) is the ultimate après-ski wine. Uncork it by the fire after a day on the slopes and you’ll see what I mean: it’s sharp fruit tones and rustic secondary aromas reinvigorate the senses.
Didier Gerbelle “Peque-Na!” Valle d’Aosta
Another engrossing red blend of Cornalin, Fumin and Prié Rouge, “Peque-Na!” is so emblematic of alpine red wine. The body is supremely light, but the wine does not lack in energy or vigor, with sour cherry, red currant and almond extract-like tones riding waves of juicy acidity.
Didier Gerbelle “Le Plantse” Valle d’Aosta Pinot Grigio
This is the wine that clinched Didier Gerbelle’s inclusion on this list, as “Le Plantse” is one of Italy’s most interesting Pinot Grigio. The purity of it’s aromas are amazing: crystal-clear tones redolent of yellow fruit, yellow flowers and nuts. But it is the rounded, glycerin texture that really shows Gerbelle’s craft. It is a reminder of how beautiful and textured PG can be when you give it the proper care.
Originally listed: November 2018. Updated January 2021.
Visiting Didier Gerbelle
Unknown whether visitation to this winery is allowed.