Sexy Southern California Gavi Down Under

February 1, 2008

Before you speed dial the censors, please let me explain!

The Piedmont region of Italy is most famous for its red wines: Barolo, Barbaresco, and Dolcetto. However it also makes an outstanding white wine, which I have previously reported to our loyal readers called Gavi. It is made predominantly from a grape called Cortese. This straw-colored wine has a very faint aroma, and a youthful, acidic fruity taste that pairs perfectly with the region’s fairly rich sauces containing truffles and butter.

I tasted a few examples of this wine in an enoteca while in the town of Gavi. I really enjoyed the fresh, citrus flavors. This wine can be difficult to find in the United States unless you’re in a fairly large city. The most common example I’ve found is Banfi’s Principessa Gavi. This Banfi property in the Piedmont should not be confused with Castello Banfi in Tuscany. Some of my other favorite Italian producers to look for include Bruno Broglia, Araldica, and Villa Sparina.

It seems that the Cortese grape is gaining in popularity. I have discovered that a few southern California wineries located in the Santa Barbara and Temecula (San Diego) regions are making wines with this grape. It’s usually part of their Cal-Ital portfolio. I have seen advertising citing these wines as “sexy”, or “lean and aloof…with an air of Italian sophistication”. The label of one of them was a masterpiece, designed by an Italian artist.

The Cortese grape has also been planted and vinified successfully in Australia. A winery called Lost Valley in the Victorian high country one-hour northeast of Melbourne has been credited with producing one of the ten Must Drink Cult Wines produced in Australia in the last ten years. I had read that Qantas Airlines had chosen this wine to serve to its first class worldwide passengers.

I had to seek out this wine! It could never be confused with the original Piedmont Gavi, however, it was an excellent wine. The nose was much more pronounced with a melon aroma rather than citrusy, and it was more heavy-bodied than the Gavi. I drank it with pork chops cooked with green olives. I really enjoyed it.

When you’’re ready to explore the white wine of Gavi, head to the Italian aisle of your favorite wine store. After finding something that might work for you, ask the clerk if the store also carries any of those “sexy” American Cortese wines…and while you have his ear, you might ask him to explain to you how exactly a “sexy” wine should taste!

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