OK, first the set up… Gavi is the most basic name (more on this later) of a white wine made from a single grape called Cortese. No other variety can be blended in in any quantity. The Gavi region rests in southernmost Piedmont right up on the border with neighboring Liguria, and there are about a dozen towns in which this wine can be made.
Here’s where it gets a little confusing…There are actually three “Gavis” if you will, namely “Cortese di Gavi”, “Gavi”, and “Gavi di Gavi”. The first name represents the most “basic” designation of the wine, as well as its largest total quantity of acres under vine. This appellation is classified as a D.O.C. The next designation is just dubbed plain old Gavi, but unlike the Cortese di Gavi designation, this one is a D.O.C.G. that can only be produced in several of the towns in the area, and consequently, because total yields of fruit are lower than in the D.O.C. appellation of Cortese di Gavi, at least in theory, Gavi is the finer wine. And then there’s “Gavi di Gavi”…Not too surprisingly, there’s a town in the area actually named Gavi, and among several producers in this town of Gavi, there’s one – by far the most famous one that I shall also leave unnamed – that because of various and sundry political connections, was able to get the wines from this one town designated as the somewhat redundant “Gavi di Gavi”. Shockingly, the powers that be in Rome declared Gavi di Gavi a D.O.C.G.
So here’s the upshot of all of this nomenclature. Cortese is not a variety that is particularly sensitive to its terroir (though the general Gavi area is the best region to raise this grape – it is found in other regions, but always as a component of a blend),and what’s more, the variance in soil and climate in this fairly small area is minimal, so aside from the yields permitted by the D.O.C./D.O.C.G. regulations, and the skill and style of the producer, there is little to distiguish Cortese di Gavi from Gavi, and frankly, Gavi di Gavi is little more than an institutionalized ruse – no better, worse, or different than “Gavi”. All that said, the Cortese grape is a high quality one, that is hardy, fertile, and full of bright and fairly intense flavors that pairs exceptionally well with “white” risottos, egg pastas with lighter sauces, and any fish or white meat…
So with this in mind, I matched this ultra-traditional Gavi (made exclusively from old vines) with egg pappardelle with a butternut squash and rosemary sauce, and then a main course of turkey breast cutlets with a Marsala and sage sauce, with a side of black kale (a.k.a. Tuscan cabbage, Lacinto, Dinosaur kale) with pancetta.
Francesco Rinaldi Gavi “Vecchie Vigne” 2011
Slightly coppery straw yellow color. Initially shy, with time the nose opens out into an earthy, old-school pastiche of yellow fruits, dried white flowers, mineral water, honey, roasted nuts, hay, wet clay pot, and a touch of pickled lemon. In the mouth the wine is of medium weight with a markedly austere elegance, and a fresh, complex nerviness, with intense and evolving flavors of yellow cherries, Shiitake mushrooms, stewed vegetables, and eucalyptus. Very persistent bitter almond finish.