While the Piedmont region in northeastern Italy tends to get the most attention for its fantastic red wines, it also produces gorgeous white wines. One of these is Gavi wine, which was one of the first Italian white wines to gain an international reputation. It’s more formally known as Cortese di Gavi, because it is made exclusively from the Cortese grape. Gavi is the region, which is in the Province of Alessandria. Gavi wines are crisp, refreshing, and so bone dry that they’ll leave your mouth tingling.
The Cortese grape has been part of Italian viticulture for centuries and is considered one of the finest white wine grapes from Piedmont. Documentation from local vineyards shows evidence of its plantings dating back to 1659. Its current mode of production dates back to 1876 and reflects its terroir wonderfully. The grape has thin skins and naturally high acidity, which is nicely balanced by the warm, sunny climate where they’re grown. The wines are nutty, floral, and often have flavors of lemony citrus, green apples, honeydew, and straw. Some also finish with a hint of almond.
These wines have had DOC status since 1974 and DOCG since 1998. The label “Gavi di Gavi” means the wine comes from the township of Gavi, which is central to the production area. Overall, the DOCG has a stricter production zone, including neighboring towns of Bosio, Capriata d’Orba, Carrosio, Francavilla Bisio, Gavi, Novi Ligure, Parodi Ligure, Pasturana, San Cristoforo, Serravalle Scrivia, and Tassarolo.
Serving and Pairing Gavi Wine
Like many inexpensive white wines, these are usually consumed while young and fresh. Still, cellaring for up to three years can potentially enhance a Gavi wine. Always serve them chilled (6ºC/43ºF) in a white wine glass to fully appreciate their characteristics.
The acidity of Gavi wines make them wonderfully food friendly. They’re traditionally served with starters and vegetable dishes, but also pair well with many kinds of cheeses if you prefer to open with such a course. We especially recommend them with Italian cheeses like Brunet, Taleggio, Stracchino, Robiola di Roccaverano, and Capra Sarda.
The tart, fresh citrus notes make Gavi wines ideal for pairing with white fish and other seafood dishes. This winemaking region is also close to the coastal region of Liguria where pesto originated. As you might guess, it pairs wonderfully with pestos and other herb forward pasta sauces.
My favorite way to enjoy Gavi wine, however, is with a bowl of olives.
A Few Suggestions
Looking to try Gavi wine for the first time? Here are a few to look out for. They’re fairly inexpensive, usually under $20 per bottle, so don’t be afraid to pick up a few and compare them.
Pio Cesare makes a Gavi that is fresh, clean, and salty with a delightful fruity quality. It’s complex enough that it has good potential for aging. Averaging about $20 per bottle, it’s a great value.
Villa Sparina is a gorgeous vineyard in Monterotondo that produces another delicious, affordable Gavi. On top of that, they’re a resort, so would make the perfect destination for a honeymoon or wine vacation in Piedmont.
Broglia boasts some of the oldest vineyards in all of Gavi, though that doesn’t mean they’re stuck in the past. Their vineyard collaborates with Italian universities, working toward winemaking innovations.