vini19g.jpgThis week we took a chance. For our wine tasting group, the theme was wines of Northern and Central Italy, and instead of going big, we went small—really small. We knew we would be up against big Barolos and robust Amarones. We suspected many of the wines would cost over $75 a bottle; ours was less than $25. Bite my tongue for saying this, but bigger isn’t always better, and when it comes to wine (and apparently hot dog eating contests) sometimes the little guy comes out the victor.

The wine we selected (with assistance from the folks at Italian Wine Merchants) was the 2003 Grosjean Torrette from Valle D’Aosta ($22), the smallest wine producing region in Italy, located in the Northwest on the border of Switzerland. The grapes in this wine were fairly obscure, indigenous varieties: petit rouge, vien de nus, doucet, fumin and mayolet. Many of which we hadn’t tried before. We were curious about this region and perhaps even more so about those grapes.

So how was it? Perfect. Its medium body, bright acidity and meaty aromas made it a refreshing treat against some of the more heavy wines. The complex notes of smoke, spice and black cherries packed a big punch on the palate. It was a slimmed-down version of what we love about Italian reds. There was earth, minerality and a pleasant grittiness, wrapped up a bright, light red.

This wine was one of the favorites among the group. Perhaps it was because it was a point of difference from the rest. Or maybe it was the blistering hot summer afternoon that had us all leaning towards something a little lighter. It didn’t matter to us. What matters is we got to take home what was left of the 2003 Grosjean Torette AND the Barolo. That’s what we call victory.

Here was some of the competition:

2004 Ceretto Dolcetto D’Alba
Leather, spice and black-cherry notes

1998 Corino Barolo
A high amount of soft, velvety tannins. Leather and spice notes.

1997 Borgogne Barbaresco
Spice, earth and leather notes.

2003 Conterno Barbera d’Alba
Black cherries, spice and wood.