My first thought was, “This smells fantastic!” My second thought was, “Wait, Fumin?” A recent survey put the total worldwide production of dark-skinned Fumin at less than two hundred acres, mostly confined to the steep Alpine vineyards of the Valle d’Aosta. With a nose like this—ripe blackberries, earthiness, and smoke—wine drinkers and vintners alike are sure to take notice.
Staring at the label on this bottle of Fumin, you’d hardly be to blame for wondering if it came from France or Italy! “Château Feuillet”: French. “Denominazione di origine protetta”: Italian. “Mis en bouteille par le producteur”: French. “Maurizio Fiorano”: Italian. What’s going on here? Reflecting the linguistic overlap of the French-Swiss-Italian border, Château Feuillet is an Italian domaine with a French name. Nestled among the western Alps, fifty miles from where the three countries meet, this estate specializes in the region’s indigenous grape varieties: Fumin, Cornalin, Petite Arvine, etc. The primary grape in this bottling is Fumin, whose name derives from fumo, or “smoky.” Some think it’s called that because the wines bear a smoky taste. Ian D’Agata, in his Native Wine Grapes of Italy, instead proposes that the grapes look smoky when covered in a dusty, white coating called the “bloom.” In any case, the grape was almost completely removed in the 1960s due to the opinion of certain academics, who did not think it made noble enough wine. When you open this bottle, you might scream, “How could they?!” Luckily for us, a few producers saved the variety in Valle d’Aosta, and now we have supremely quaffable, distinct reds like this one. With 10% Syrah completing the blend, this rosso from Château Feuillet evokes dark fruit, has great acidity, and sports an irresistible texture, leaving you with a delicious, lingering finish.