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Danilo Thomain 'Enfer d'Arvier', Valle d'Aosta 2021

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Danilo Thomain 2021 Enfer d'Arvier, Valle d'Aosta, Italy

Home to the second-highest winegrowing zone in the valley, the Enfer d’Arvier is a splendorous amphitheater of steeply terraced vines overlooking the Dora Baltea/Doire Baltée river below. Covering a scant 5 ha, the majority of the Enfer d’Arvier’s output is via the local co-op, and with his single hectare in production, Danilo Thomain stands as the zone’s only independent bottler of wine.

Translating to "the Hell of Arvier", the amphitheater's name is a nod to its huge diurnal temperature swings and extremely hot summer days, which help to produce wines that are broodingly intense, while still remaining light and nuanced. As the sole independent bottler of the Enfer d'Arvier DOP, Danilo's production is extremely limited-- less than 500 cases are made each vintage! We were lucky to snag these few bottles. 

Winemaker: Danilo Thomain

Farming: Lutte Raisonnée

Variety: Petit Rouge (90%), Pinot Noir, Gamay, Gamaret (10%)

Terroir / Soils: Sandy glacial moraines at high elevation. 35-40 year old estate vines.

Vinification: Manual harvest. After destemming, wine ferments spontaneously in fiberglass and stainless-steel tanks over about 2 weeks, with pumpovers. Malolactic Fermentation takes place spontaneously in stainless-steel tanks following alcoholic fermentation. 

Aging: Wine ages in stainless-steel tanks for appx. 9 months. Wines are unfined and unfiltered, with only a bit of sulfur applied after malolactic, and at bottling.

Tasting Notes: Aromatic and crunchy, this wines throws aromas of intense sour black cherry, crushed violets, mission fig and wet stone. The medium bodied wine has deceivingly intense tannins, which arrive after the fresh fruit and mineral notes have settled across the palate. This wine is very enjoyable now, but will also drink well in 5-10 years. 



From our 2021 Bottle Club Notes:
In the shadow of Mont Blanc, where the Alps of Switzerland, France, and Italy come crashing together, sits the tiny Italian region of Aosta. Home to some of Europe’s highest elevation vineyards, the Valle d’Aosta is also the smallest wine-growing region and production zone in the country, making only around 330,000 bottles each year, with the vast majority coming from co-ops. In fact, the region is SO small that Danilo Thomain is the only independent winery in the 12-acre appellation of Enfer d’Arvier. So when we had a chance to get our hands on 12 whole bottles of his wine, we pounced!

The Enfer d’Arvier DOP is mostly about red wine production, with a big focus on Petit Rouge, an indigenous red grape with an inky color, a bite of tannin, and a super floral bouquet. It’s usually blended with other local varieties to bring some balance, and in Danilo’s case, he peppers the wine with a 10% mix of Pinot Noir, Gamay, and Gamaret (a red, brooding Swiss variety). Surprised to see such structured wines in what seems like a cold, mountainous ski region? Well, that’s because the summers are hellishly hot in the Enfer d'Arvier. The naturally steep amphitheater of this minuscule DOP traps the heat of the sun, encouraging the grapes to form thicker skins in order to protect them from sunburn and raisination. (Most farmers utilize the pergola method on their vines to provide some shade.)

Danilo knows how privileged he is to be bottling his own wine in Enfer d’Arvier, and so he focuses on showing the grapes at their best, making unfussy wines that scream of complexity. The wines are fermented and aged in a mix of fiberglass and steel tanks, and after 9 months, are bottled without fining or filtering. What you get in the glass is grapes, sunshine, power, minerality, and a little slice of Alpine perfection. This is the wine to pair up with a hearty après-ski MEAL. Think beef stew, french onion soup, lasagna with bechamel, or roasted mushrooms. Open it up 45 minutes to an hour ahead of time, and drink it on a night when you need to feel cozy.

—Simi Grewal