Arguably the finest white variety from the Valais region of Switzerland, first mentioned in 1602.
While it has the potential for very high-quality wines, its only other home is Italy's Aosta Valley, no doubt because it is so tricky to grow and make well. Easily damaged by the wind and susceptible to diseases, Petite Arvine's thin skins make it prone to rot and rocketing sugar levels near harvest. The moment of harvest is critical and brief. Too early and the high acidity sets your teeth on edge, too late and it is overly rich and alcoholic. This high acidity and sugar can also inhibit fermentation, leaving the wine with a certain amount of residual sugar. Off-dry styles are not Petite Arvine's best expression.
Bone-dry wines combine rich, aromatic citrus flavours with refreshing acidity and a distinctive salty note. The variety is best unoaked but skin contact and lees ageing help to release the lemon and grapefruit intensity that is its hallmark.
Try Swiss wines from Jean-René Germanier, Provins, John & Mike Favre, Domaine des Muses and Cave du Vieux Moulin, and Italian versions from Les Crêtes and Grosjean.
Wine Grapes by Jancis Robinson MW, Julia Harding MW and José Vouillamoz; www.winegrapes.org
Translated by Nina Fan Feng / 冯帆
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