Panoramica su Aosta dal vigneto di CossanThe view from IAR’s Cossan Vineyard.  Now that’s EXTREME!

I am “re-blogging” part of an article we wrote for the AI Selections Blog today, to introduce one of our newest, and most exciting producers, the Institut Agricole Régional (IAR), in Valle d’Aosta.  Welcome to the family, IAR!Vendemmia del Pinot nero a Moncenis

Pinot Nero Harvesting- check out that steep slope.  Back-breaking.

Imagine the most French-sounding Italians ever, clinging to the steep slopes of Mont Blanc, the tallest mountain peak in the Alpine chain, fearlessly  daring to grow grapes and make wines in the most inhospitable and vertically challenging place ever.  This is what goes through my mind when I think about viticulture in Valle d’Aosta.
This region in Italy is known for a style of wine we love at A.I. Selections;  floral, pretty, racing lightning-like acidity throughout, with clean fruit and balance.  Sadly there are few wineries in this region, and the ones that exist are often extremely small. This kind of scarcity makes the conservation of the region’s agricultural practices critical to the preservation of history of the Valley.  Thankfully a group was formed called the Institut Agricole Régional (IAR), whose mission is to ensure the local agrarian practices are not lost.  IAR is not just a winery- it’s an entire winemaking and agricultural University.

Alunni_vendemmiaIAR was established in 1951 as a professional agricultural program, designed to preserve the indigenous Valle d’Aosta agrarian products (vegetables, fruits, cheese, wine), and to teach the next generation as well.   Master winemakers and professors work both in the fields and in the lab. A large part of the group’s focus is also on genetically identifying the many indigenous grape varietals.  IAR is responsible for determining the origins and traits of many clones and phenotypes of vitis vinifera.   The research alone is invaluable, but the wines that result from this fully functioning winery are nothing short of spectacular.

We met with a few representatives of IAR during Vinitaly this past year, and it was an eye-opening experience.  Just tasting these almost-forgotten wines made from obscure and quasi-extinct grapes is enough to make your head spin.  Petit Rouge.  Mayolet.  Nus Malvoisie.  Vuillermin.  Fumin.  Exotic-sounding, reminiscent of the region’s French/ Swiss heritage, and foreign enough to be totally enthralling  by name alone.Filari di Petite Arvine

Rows of Petie Arvine.

The wine-making is well-researched and professional, as you’d expect from a group of academics, but thankfully the wines have soul. Not hard to believe- as growing grapes here (growing anything here) is nothing short of a labor of love.  There’s no other way to describe it.  There are also some aromatic qualities that float across the varietals- these wines smell like the mountains they come from.  They are rich with wildflowers and icy minerality and dark, dusky iron bitterness.  There is a restrained fruit that recalls the strength of the sunshine that must penetrate easily at such altitudes, and that long, slow ripening process is also evident, thanks to the winds, the protection of the mountains, and the crisp mountain air.IAR

The wines are now available through AI selections, and we couldn’t be more proud to showcase the heroic efforts of these vintners.  Contact us for more information!

About The Author

I love all things Italian: the beautiful country of Italia, the Italians themselves, the language, the food… and above all, I love Italian wine. The people I meet in my charmed life are fascinating, the wines are extraordinary. I needed a special place like this to write about them, and to remember them.

11 Responses

  1. Geoff

    Very informative post, Joanie. Really gives you an appreciation for the labor they put in to make such fantastic wines.

  2. vinoinlove

    Great informative post! Have you tried the wines from Les Cretes? In my opinion they produce some of the Valle d’Aosta’s most interesting wines.

  3. 5th year

    We are students from IAR. Thank you for the article about our school.
    It’s wonderful. It would be great to go to NY to meet you!

    • Joanie Karapetian, Italian Wine Geek

      Thank you very much for finding our article! We took the wines out once in Los Angeles, and once in NY for our customers to see, and we sold almost EVERY bottle. You are doing a fantastic job, and we welcome you anytime! I also hope to meet you in Val d’Aosta!

  4. Elena Roullet

    Dear Joanie,
    we read your article about our school, IAR in Aosta. We are students of the 5th year and we must study agrarian topics during our English lessons.
    We were very pleased to discover your company and see how much you have appreciated our region and the wines that we make. We have some questions to ask you.
    1. Who did you talk to when you went to Vinitaly? Can you remember the name of our teachers?
    2. How much of our wine have you sold so far?
    3. What are the differences between the Italian and American wine?
    4. What varieties of grapes do you grow?
    5. What is the most famous winery in America?
    We are looking forward to receiving news from you.
    Class 5th year

    • Joanie Karapetian

      Hello Elena,
      I am sorry your comment was lost in my filter!

      1. I am not sure who we talked with at Vinitaly, but there were a group of men form the winery in 2012.
      2. We sold everything your company would sell to us as importers! I believe it was under 50- cases total, as there wasn’t a lot of wine left!
      3. There are MANY differences between American and Italian wine- mostly stemming form the BIG difference in terroir.
      4. I don’t know which winery is most famous in America, but we certainly have a lot in the Napa area, like Mondavi and Kendall-Jackson who have been around a long time!

      Feel free to email me directly as well at



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