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When you arrive in the land of Gavi - or better still, when you return - you perceive a "spirit of place" that makes this territory something unique and distinguishes it from other well-known wine regions in southern Piedmont such as the Langhe and Monferrato (to which it borders).

The small town of Gavi with the imposing Forte di Gavi fortress in the background% Photo: Consorzio di Tutela del Gavi

The aesthetics of nature in the land behind the mountains

It is difficult to define this spirit. It is a special light, a brightness that blows with the breezes from the mountains in the south and pushes the misty haze north towards the Po Valley. You can't see the sea here, but you can almost feel it, because it's just over thirty kilometres away as the crow flies. In between are the Apennine mountains, and the small torrent Lemme glides light blue between the cliffs of white marl. There are extensive forests with native plants such as the oak and the hornbeam (Carpinus betulus), which here even stand up to the American black locust, which has advanced unstoppably elsewhere and is occupying the territory. The area is particularly popular with nature lovers thanks to the rich fauna and flora. In the woods you can enjoy a wonderfully fresh climate in summer and in winter the snow often covers the land with a white dress, which has become a rare occurrence in most other parts of Piedmont.

The temperature swings in summer between day and night are enormous. The vineyards are mostly young and well cared for, even from an aesthetic point of view, because the Gavi farms - more than others - are concerned about the integrity of the landscape and demonstrate this.

Among the vineyards and woods, ancient houses and splendid country residences stand out. Not too ostentatious and of dignified proportions, elegant and perfectly blended into the landscape. One seems to enter a realm of an enlightened aristocracy that sees in the soil not only a resource to exploit, but also a heritage to be protected and preserved in time, and who even animate this heritage as a source of pastime with hunts, walks, horseback riding Let's get it right, Gavi is not just that and perhaps it is no more than that, but this is the impression it sometimes gives and it is not an unpleasant one. One can also trace it historically. In Gavi and in the neighbouring areas, since the times of the Republic of Genoa, the Genoese merchants built their noble country residences here with their income from trade in the foundry capital. Gavi thus became for Genoa, which has a mountainous hinterland, something like the Brenta Riviera with its famous Palladian villas for Venice. And under the protection of one of the access roads leading from the Po Valley to the sea, the Genoese built an impressive fortress in Gavi, which is still well preserved today. And the typical Ligurian tone overlaps here with that of the inhabitants of Gavi to form a "border dialect", but one that has a little more of the Piedmontese.

Cortese - white beats red

The Gavi grape variety: Cortese% Photo: Consorzio di Tutela del Gavi

Gavi wine is made exclusively from one autochthonous grape variety, the Cortese. The word "Cortese" was first mentioned in a letter from the administrator of Montaldeo Castle to Marquis Doria in 1659. Until then, and for a long time afterwards, the vineyards tended to be planted with red varieties, such as Nibiö (local name for Dolcetto) or Barbera. Cortese, together with other white grapes, was present only to a small extent. The first large-scale plants specialised in Cortese went into production from 1856 onwards on the estates owned by the Marquis of Cambiaso, La Centuriona and La Toledana of Gavi.

In 1869 Demaria and Leardi, two scholars of the ampelographic commission set up by the Province of Alessandria, defined Cortese as a "native, robust and fertile grape variety, known and cultivated in the area for a long time".

In the 19th century, important family-owned vineyards were established by the Raggio, Serra, Sartorio and Spinola families. They accompanied the rise of Cortese as a wine of international stature and at the same time the end of a large part of the old vineyards with red varieties. Cortese cultivation expanded even further at the end of the century, after it had survived the threat of phylloxera. The vines were replanted and at the same time the acreage expanded to meet the growing demand for white wine in the nearby region of Liguria. In the 20th century, the success of "Cortese di Gavi" was variable. In the heyday of the typically flavoured wines from Piedmont - from the first decades of the 20th century until after the Second World War - it was mainly in demand as a base wine for Vermouth. In the second half of the last century, it is mainly thanks to the Soldati family and the "La Scolca" w inery that Gavi has been upgraded. Today's production reality is very diverse, there are large wineries, medium and small ones, and in all categories it is possible to find excellent products.

Vineyard with Cortese% Photo: La Scolca

The Protected Designation of Origin (Denominazione di Origine Controllata - DOC) dates back to 1974, with the name "Gavi" or "Cortese di Gavi". Over time, the name of the grape variety has disappeared. Since 1993, the Consorzio di Tutela del Gavi (www-consorziogavi.com) has been operating and in 1998 came the consecration of the DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita).

From a fresh, light wine to a "vin de garde"

The last two decades have partially changed the image of this wine, or at least they have split it between different wines. Today, Gavi is no longer considered just a light, fresh white wine to be drunk young. Although Cortese is not a great producer of sugar and consequently the wines rarely have a high alcohol content, modern viticulture and cellar techniques (including a tendency to harvest later) have improved the storage and ageing capacities of this wine enormously. When the young wine is fragrant, with notes of white flowers and citrus fruits, it gains complexity over time and acquires mineral hints that are well supported by a particularly pronounced acidity. For this reason, too, it is well suited for sparkling. The spectrum of aromas can be wide, but always delicate and never exaggerated, because the Gavi is not an aromatic wine, not an "alcohol bomb", it is rather the perfect "food wine" among the whites, excellent with fish but also excellent with a focaccia (pizza bread with cheese), Ravioli with cheese filling, only slightly matured cheese and many other dishes, for example also a simple salami roll and the famous "Testa in cassetta" from Gavi, a sausage made from parts of the calf's head.

Facts and figures about Gavi DOCG

DOCG recognition By ministerial decree of 9 July 1998. The region had already been classified as a DOC region since 26 June 1974.
Production area

A total of eleven municipalities: The entire territory of the towns of Bosio, Carrosio, Gavi, Parodi Ligure and San Christoforo. Part of Novi Lingure, Serravalle Scvrivia, Francavilla Bisio, Caprita d'Orba, Pasturana and Tassarolo in the province of Alessandria.

authorised grape variety Cortese
Wine varieties

Three varieties are produced: Still wine, Frizzante (semi-sparkling wine) and Spumante (sparkling wine)

Maximum yield 9.5 tonnes of grapes per hectare
Must yield maximum 70
Minimum alcohol content

10.5 % Alc. by Vol.

Yield area (as of Nov. 2007) 1.224 ha
Bottle production in 2006 9.400,000 bottles

Translation by Katrin Walter

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