Italy is obviously renown for the quality of its red wines, the Chiantis, the Barolos, the Montepulcianos and many more. As for whites, it’s very famous for quaffable simple expressions such as its Pinot Grigio or Prosecco if we talk about sparklings too.
But Italy also has some local specialty whites that are very tasty and very well crafted that are worth learning about and knowing if you want to explore the beautiful diversity of the world of wine, of Italy in particular.
Some of Italy’s best whites are pretty much always produced in relatively small areas with ancient winemaking traditions. Being from relatively small appellations, they are not massively exported out of Italy, but every Italian would certainly know about them, and you should too. These old high-quality white wines have all been granted the highest ranking in Italy appellation system, the DOCG status (while most wines come under the more standard DOC level).
Italy’s best DOCG whites include Roero, Soave, Asti, and the one we are looking at today: Gavi.
The Grapes & Terroir of Gavi
But rather than being quite high up inland towards the Alps, the 11 towns around Gavi that form the Gavi appellation area, are located at the Southern end of Piedmont, bordering the Coastal region of Liguria.
Gavi not only has influences from the Alps mountain ranges, but also cooling influences from the Mediterranean, especially during summer.
Gavi whites are made from an Italian white grape variety called Cortese which is pretty much unique to this area.
Cortese can be a highly productive grape, easily producing a lot of grapes if the vines are not controlled and looked after carefully. It’s also a very acidic white grape variety that can easily produce loads of bland and acidic white wine.
This is why Cortese isn’t grown much at all outside of the Gavi area, because it’s not that good unless you have the very specific conditions for growing it, which they have in Gavi with mineral-rich soils that infuse a lot of flavors into the grapes, a warm-enough climate to ripen these grapes that demand a lot of sunshine, but some cooling influences from the mountains and the sea creating a large temperature variation between day and nights guaranteeing concentration of flavors, yet loads of crisp refreshing acidity as well.
The Wines of Gavi
The result of this unique terroir are white wines that are dry, crisp, floral and playful, yet serious wines with a richly-balanced texture and some solid oily body, elegance and depth to the finish.
If you’d like an image to visualize what Gavi wines are, they are not dissimilar in style to those of Chablis or Sancerre. Dry, mineral, yet relatively deep. Although, the Cortese grape is pretty aromatic with an expression that is the one of Chardonnay or Sauvignon blanc.
Typical aromas and flavors used to describe Gavi Cortese whites are floral with notes of honeysuckle, as well as peachy, pear, and hints of a nutty, like an almond character.
On top of this balance and playful expression, another advantage of Gavi wine is that you get serious whites at a relatively low alcohol level, around 12% alcohol.
Gavi also makes some Riserva wines, which can be a little more concentrated in flavors, as well as sparkling Frizzante or Spumante.
If you want to explore a little more, here are two excellent examples of Gavi wines in our shop: