Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Gavi - Front and Center

Gavi has historically been one of the favorite Italian white wines in America, but recently it seems to have been lost in the shuffle. Pinot Grigio has taken some of the business away and then there are just so many other wines out there a consumer can choose from, be it from Italy or a dozen other countries.

I recently went to Piemonte to try the new vintages of Barolo and Barbaresco, but of course, I needed some white wine to balance out all that red. I tried some lovely bottlings of Arneis, but I kept coming back to Gavi for some pleasant surprises. Here is a report on three wines I enjoyed very much during my trip.

One of my favorites was the newly released 2010 from Fontanafredda, a winery that has rediscovered its greatness over the past decade. There are many factors for this, from the direction of general manager Giovanni Minetti to the winemaking style and expertise of Danilo Drocco to the new vision of owner Oscar Farinetti. I've experienced greater complexity as well as more freshness in their wines as of late and this is certainly on display in this Gavi. My notes list fresh Bosc pear, Meyer lemon and a hint of mango for the juicy aromas, while the wine has lovely texture, lively acidity and even a hint of minerality. I'd love to pair this wine with risotto or shellfish and the price should be around $22 or so a bottle, which I think is quite reasonable. You may find the 2009 vintage on shelves now; that wine was also well made and quite flavorful and delicious. And while I rate 2009 as a superior vintage in Piemonte as compared with 2010, this new release from Fontanafredda is as complete and an complex a Gavi as I've had from them. Don't miss it. (For those interested in these things, this particular bottling is labeled as a Gavi del comune di Gavi, meaning the grapes were grown in Gavi and the wine was made in a cellar in that township.)

Gavi #2 that impressed me was the 2010 Francesco Rinaldi. Yes, you read that right - the historic winery known for their traditional Barolos from the Brunate and Cannubi vineyards, has produced its first white wine. It so happens that their winemaker owns a vineyard in Gavi and decided to produce a wine under the Rinaldi label. This wine has appealing Bosc pear, lemon peel and lilac aromas, is medium-full and sports very good acidity and persistence. It will be an excellent choice over the next 2-3 years with asparagus, lighter chicken preparations or with most shellfish.

The Gavi that impressed me the most during my trip was the 2009 Rovereto from Michele Chiarlo. Chiarlo produces three different offerings of Gavi and I first tried this bottling about six years ago on a visit to the winery in the Asti province. I had tasted the regular bottling of Chiarlo Gavi on many occasions at home, so this was a revelation for me, as I had not sampled a Gavi with this sort of richness and complexity.

The 2009 has those same qualities and is from an outstanding vintage. There are aromas of fresh Bosc pear along with quince and mango and there is excellent persistence. This Gavi has lovely texture and a lengthy, flavorful finish and is a step up from most bottlings of this wine type. I enjoyed it thoroughly with my tajarin with asparagus at one trattoria and with seafood at another ristorante. 

Unfortunately, this wine is not imported into the United States, so the only way most of us can try it is in Piemonte. Now you have another reason to go!

Anyway, it's nice to see that Gavi is still a healthy, vibrant wine in Piemonte. Let's hope it regains some of its former sales success here in America.

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