Gavi - Elegance Defined
Gavi white wines made exclusively from the Cortese grape are one of Italy's most widely renowned wines, and is one of the first white wines to have received such high international regard. We bring you what you need to know about this famed wine and, as a wine that can be labelled in several ways, we clear up the name confusion for you.
The small town of Gavi lies in North West Italy within the province of Alessandria in Piedmont/Piemonte. Gavi and its immediate surrounds of a further 12 small communes became a DOC appellation as early as 1974. It ascended to the highest ranking of DOCG in 1998 due to its exceptional production of its self-titled white wine using the Cortese grape which very specifically blossoms to the fullest flavour only in its terroir. Cortese wines exist outside Gavi, but cannot be labelled as such.
GAVI OR GAVI DI GAVI?
One area of confusion has been how the wine is titled; Gavi, Cortese di Gavi, Gavi di Gavi to name but a few. The only difference in naming is that a Gavi di Gavi wine indicates that grapes are from vineyards within the township of Gavi itself, whereas other labels can use grapes from the surrounding communes. In terms of quality, this is really down to personal palates and favourite producers as all Gavi labelled wines are sourced and produced within the strict DOCG zone. If you've been focused on sourcing a Gavi di Gavi, it would be worth looking outside of this small domain as you will surely be pleasantly surprised and the title does not necessarily indicate quality for your preferred palate.
A great example is Pier Carlo Bergaglio's Gavi, a sumptuous wine from the Capriata d'Orba Gavi DOCG area that is dry, fresh and harmonious with an excellently balanced floral-fruity perfume preceding its long-lasting, elegant flavour with perfect structure and refreshing acidity.
As mentioned before, the Cortese grape can be grown across Italy. However, it is a thin skinned grape of high acidity that can over-produce and, dependent on soils, lose a lot of concentration so that varietals can become, dare we say, bland. In Gavi, the climate and soils alongside many years of carefully honed viticulture bring out remarkably full flavour concentration underlying multitudes of elegant delicacy.
Gavi is located on Piemonte's border with coastal Liguria on one side and the Alps on the other. The mountainous soils of the area are very mineral-rich and alongside a Mediterranean micro-climate of lots of daytime warmth and cooling night breezes, the Cortese grapes are allowed to accumulate their highest flavour concentration.
WHAT TO EXPECT
So, what is the result? Typically:
Appearance: Light golden with green hues
Nose: Floral honeysuckle and white flowers, citrus and green apple sometimes with subtle peach and pear
Palate: Dry, fresh and delicate with an underlying nutty depth, often showing almond character on the finish.
Traditionally Gavi wines are recommended for drinking in their youth, up to 3 years from vintage. However, the depth of profile and nutty undertones hint at a wine that can undergo further ageing with more producers starting to look at this. Most wines are aged in stainless steel, but some are now trying barrel maturation and/or producing wines that can benefit from longer bottle ageing to bring forward those honey and almond tones. PAIRING Being on the border with the region who brought us pesto, Gavi wines go excellently with pesto/herb-led salads, risottos and pastas as well as white fish and traditional Italian antipasti staples olives and goats-style cheeses.