There are certain Italian wines whose names evoke a feeling or a belief that often have little to do with the current state of the health and quality of that wine. Wines like Soave or Lambrusco, due to their somewhat checkered past, have languished somewhat in the market despite the high quality of the average bottle that currently bear these names. And then there are appellations like Brunello and Barolo whose borders contain producers that capitalize on the prestigious reputations of these names, but seriously under-deliver once the cork is pulled.
Southern Piedmont’s Gavi region in a way splits the difference between the two extremes cited above. Gavi, in its own inimitable way, both over and underachieves with respect to its reputation. There are producers, one of which bears a black label that I shall leave un-named, that make perfectly serviceable wine that are priced well above their actual quality, not unlike some producers of the ubiquitous Pinot Grigio. And then there are some really fine producers who make very sophisticated and delicious wines that charge well less for their wines than they’re really worth. I don’t really pretend to know why this is, but nevertheless, this is the way things go down when it comes to Gavi.
Gavi is made from exclusively one grape called “Cortese” which in Italian means “courteous” or “gracious”, and the shoe definitely fits the reality when it comes to the name matching the character of Gavi wines, and perhaps it’s this very pleasant but not arrestingly exciting nature that contributes to Gavi’s all-over-the-map status, both in terms of price and quality and the correspondence, or lack thereof, between the two. The good ones are really fresh, elegant, and sassy wines, but the lesser examples often leave the drinker wondering what all the fuss is all about. Tonight’s wine falls clearly in the former column. This is one of the Gavis that shows the fine potential of the Cortese grape AND it does it without unduly emptying one’s wallet.
I serves this very svelte and suave white wine with a very traditional Piedmontese appetizer called “Insalata Capricciosa” which is a chopped salad that consists of fennel, radicchio, poached chicken, Fontina cheese, cooked ham, mayo, oil, and vinegar, followed by flounder filets poached in a light hard apple cider, bacon cream sauce with braised carrots on the side.
Il Poggio di Gavi Gavi 2012
Very pale straw yellow color. Piercing nose of pear, quince, and honeydew melon fruit notes supported by aromas of almond, fried dough, mascarpone, dried yellow flowers and wet stones. The body of the wine is medium weight, but with a notable depth and complexity and very elegant and balanced but vivacious flavors of lemon, grapefruit, candied citron, fresh herbs, hay, powdered ginger, and hazelnut shot through with a lip-smacking, high-toned acidity. Long and taut pleasantly bitter finish.