The Valle d’Aosta is a mountain paradise. Entering from the Italian side, the mountains increase in elevation as you approach the border with France. This hour long drive will take you past the famous peaks of Cervino (Matterhorn), Monte Rosa and Gran Paradiso (all over 4000m) until you end at the largest mountain of them all—Monte Bianco (Mont Blanc). The entire valley is lined with castles and vineyards.
As a state, Valle d’Aosta is the smallest and least populated In Italy. Not surprisingly, it also makes the smallest amount of wine. Most is consumed by the steady flow of skiers and hikers that visit the area. Very little wine is exported, and there are no large wineries.
Vines were first planted around 400 BC. Vineyards were already well established by the time the Romans built their fort, Augusta Praetoria, to control the mountain passes into Italy in 25 BC. Wine became an important part of the economy under Roman rule and the vine flourished.
The French brought the grape varieties Gamay and Pinot Noir to the area, while the Italians brought Nebbiolo and Moscato Bianco. The monks continued to make many of the wines until the 20th century, and were in charge of preserving the wine culture.
After the fall of Rome, the vineyards fell into the hands of Italian monks, who planted the terraces and made the wines. As Valle d’Aosta was the most important mountain pass, it was always a point of tension between Italy, France and Switzerland.