What is Gavi?
You have either heard of Gavi or you haven’t, it is that sort of a wine. Many people I ask about Gavi haven’t a clue what it is or where it comes from, such is the mystery behind its origin and status. However if you have had the wonderful pleasure of visiting the Piedmont region of north west Italy you may have been drinking the white wine that is Gavi without realising it.
It is often served in wine style bars or restaurants as a wine by the glass or house wine, but the real Gavi? - now there lies the story of an arguably perceived difference between ‘special and vino di tavolo’!
Gavi is a white wine that takes its name from the town or commune of the same name situated in the province of Alessandria in the district of Piedmont. Produced from the ‘Cortese’ grape variety its full title is ‘Cortese di Gavi. The existence of Gavi dates back to the 17th century with records of this wine being produced as it is today, back in 1876.
Locally it is regarded in such high esteem that prices have been driven high, so much so that it is difficult without tasting each individual wine produced to determine whether the price fits the quality or the hype fixes the price. Maybe the status of Gavi has also something to do with rubbing shoulders with its more illustrious neighbours such as Barolo, Spanna and Barbaresco. The best wines are known as Gavi di Gavi and all wine under this name was awarded DOC status in 1974 and DOCG in 1998 [See our feature on the wine quality control laws of Europe]
Did you know..."It was decreed by the Marchesa Doria of Montaldeo - Piedmont in 1659 that all vineyards in the Gavi district were to be planted with only Cortese and Vermentino grape varieties!"
The vineyards must be located within the delimited area of production in or around the 11 towns situated around Gavi and must be only planted with the Cortese grape variety. Most fermentation takes place in stainless steel vats but some producers have experimented with oak whilst experiencing differing results. It seems that the Cortese grape does not take kindly to too much oak influence, just a touch seems enough.
Gavi always reminds me of the meteoric rise to stardom of Pinot Grigio, the same fashionable acceptance of a wine that in general does not warrant such fame. But the marketing of unusual wines such as Gavi with its relatively small production and famous location has been so successful that it has become a much requested item and talking point in many wine environments. At its best it can be ‘racy and full of fruit’ but at its worst, bland and unfulfilling. So where do we start to look for some examples for us to taste?
On the Eye: Pale straw with a slight tinge of lime
On the Nose: Light nutty and floral aromas with fragrances of white peach
On the Palate: Crisp with light flavours of white fruits, particularly peaches
Matching Gavi with Food
Gavi is situated near to the Ligurian coast so an obvious choice would be most fish and sea food dishes – Italian style and as long as they have subtle flavours and not too powerful sauces.
There is a traditional Ligurian Fish Stew of mussels and prawns with chunks of monkfish, cod and halibut. The mussels are first steamed in a little Gavi wine then added to the lightly sautéed fish, prawns, with finely chopped fennel, sweet onion, garlic, carrots and batons of potato.
Then all is covered with fish stock seasoned with saffron and served with crusty bread. An ideal match for a really good Gavi wine such as the Madonnina on the previous tab.
Alan Hunter AIWS,