I never know where to begin with wines like this one. Italian wine, French name and a grape that's almost certainly of Swiss origin though virtually all 50 some acres of it are planted not far from Switzerland, or France for that matter, in the Vallée d'Aoste region (just Aosta in Italian) of Italy's extreme northwest corner. These are some of the highest vineyards in Europe at between 2,800 and 4,000 feet, mere minutes from the summit of Mont Blanc. This is wine growing and making at an extreme level with much work for very small yields which is the primary reason why you may be unfamiliar with these stunning wines; there's practically nothing available. In fact this is the only white wine I've ever offered from this region.
Ermes Pavese didn't start this winery until 1999 but his family has been growing and making wine up here for generations. With just a few hectares of this one grape, Prié Blanc, there isn't much wine made but the amount of work it takes to work up here is pretty astounding. The vines are trained on an old pergola system using a grid of wooden beams with supports made of the local slate. This system keeps the vines off the ground by a couple of feet which helps trap heat along with the stone supports, all necessary to achieve ripeness in this frigid growing zone. It's actually cold enough to have staved off phylloxera so that all of these vines are ungrafted and planted on original European rootstock. The sandy soil helps with that as well. The growing season is pretty short here with the last snows usually fading in March and a late bud break, generally cool summer growing season and harvest on the earlier side with fall weather cooling off quickly. One glitch in the weather and things can go dramatically wrong like 2017 where the entire crop was lost to a harsh April frost.
Ermes makes a couple of versions of Prié Blanc along with a bit of sparkling wine and a grappa but this is the star of the show. Hand harvested generally end of September. Whole bunches gently pressed into stainless steel where it's fermented and aged on the fine lees over the winter. This is one of those wines that really makes its provenance clear on the nose alone. It sounds a bit trite to say that it smells like an alpine meadow but that's about a good a descriptor as I can imagine for this wine. At just 12% alcohol, bright, clear pale yellow in the glass. Delicate notes of hay, mineral and white flowers, hawthorne in particular or biancospino as it's called here. There's a Muscadet like structure to this wine but a bit more in the way of fruit. Pure joy to drink and a versatile wine at the table. A great fish wine for sure but also a classic with lighter charcuterie and pasta with ragù of rabbit or veal. Just a few hundred cases imported and most of that goes to great Italian restaurants, not much for retail. Just a few cases available.