I’m writing a book on the wines and foods of Piemonte and it’s amazing how many notable wines there are from this region, even if we’re just talking about the whites. Gavi is one of those whites that doesn’t get the attention it deserves; that’s understandable given all the attention paid to Barolo and Barbaresco from Piemonte, but it also has to do with Gavi not being marketed very well.
You see, Gavi was once a very popular Italian white wine; I imagine some of that had to do with the fact that it was an easy name to remember. Then along came a little wine called Pinot Grigio, which became a phenomenon. Once Pinot Grigio took over, it knocked much of its competition out of the way, so other Italian white wines such as Gavi, Soave and Verdicchio lost a lot of market share.
There were other reasons for the decline in sales of Gavi, as dull, one-dimensional efforts from some producers didn’t aide the cause. Thankfully, those days are becoming a faded memory, as there are now more artisan producers that are crafting very distinctive examples of Gavi; one of the best versions I’ve tasted lately is the 2013 Castellari Bergaglio Gavi “Fornaci”.
Gavi is made from the Cortese grape; the name means “courteous” in Italian and that’s a nice descriptor for wines made from this grape as they’re very agreeable with good, but not overwhelming acidity and pleasant fruit flavors such as pear and melon; sometimes in warmer years, notes of kiwi or other tropical fruit can be found.
Marco Castellari Bergaglio produces several versions of Gavi, from sparkling to passito. There are four examples of traditional stainless steel-aged Gavi made here; the Fornaci is a favorite of mine. The 2013 is especially expressive, offering beautiful aromas of melon and kiwi with notes of peony, this is very rich with a long, persistent finish and very good acidity, a signature of the 2013 vintage. All in all, this is a beautifully complex wine with a refreshing character and delicious fruit. It’s a crowd pleaser in the very best manner and it’s a marvelous example of not only the wonderful quality of today’s finest examples of Gavi, but also the great work being turned in by white wine producers throughout Italy.
This would certainly be an excellent match with vegetable or seafood risotto, as the wine is rich enough to stand up to these foods. I enjoyed this at a BYOB Thai restaurant, paired with crab rangoon – this was a wine and food pairing made in heaven! All of this for about $20 a bottle – maybe Gavi will make its way back after all.
One further note – It’s important to understand that there are eleven communes where Gavi can be produced. Naturally the one that everyone remembers is Gavi, but the communes of Tassarolo and Rovereto are generally considered superior or at least sites that generally result in more complex wines. But sound bites being what they are, the majority of consumers remember only the name Gavi, so there’s the common belief that one should purchase a “Gavi di Gavi.” Of course, this is like saying that a “Barolo di Barolo” – if I may use that term – is better than a Barolo from La Morra, Serralunga d’Alba or Verduno. It’s not better, it’s different, as each of those communes have a particular style. Bottom line, learn the districts where wines are made, but the most important factor is the name of the producer.
So don’t think for a second that you have to buy a “Gavi di Gavi”, or more formally Gavi del Comune di Gavi. Yes, there are some lovely versions of Gavi from Gavi commune, but I’ve enjoyed the examples from Tassarolo and Rovereto even more. So if you want this wine, you’ll be buying the 2013 Castellari Bergaglio Gavi “Fornaci”, a Gavi del Comune di Tassarolo. The same producer also makes a very nice Gavi called “Rolona” that is a Gavi del Comune di Rolona. This wine is also brought into American by the importer, Ionia Atlantic Imports.
Bottom line, Castellari Bergaglio is a leading producer of Gavi, so if you haven’t tasted an example in some time, seek one of these wines out, whether you’re enjoying crab rangoon, seafood risotto, roast chicken to simply want a well-made, delicious dry white that’s sure to please.