Why the Terroir in Gavi Is Prime for Making White Wine

Gavi Piemonte

The rolling hills of Piemonte provide a plethora of delicious, world-renowned wines. From Barolo and Barbaresco (made from Nebbiolo) to Asti and Alba (made from Barbara and Dolcetta, respectively). The region is a red wine lovers paradise! Fret not, white wine fanatics. Gavi might not yet have the buzz-worthy reputation that its red wine counterparts do. But for white wine, many consider it to be a flagship of northwest Italy.

Gavi is a dry white wine made from the Cortese grape. It was awarded DOC status in 1974 and elevated to DOCG in 1998. A Gavi di Gavi or Gavi del comune di Gavi wine indicates that the vineyards are within the Gavi town borders. Wines stated only as Gavi DOCG grows outside the “di Gavi” area but is still within the appellation. These versions can also have Cortese di Gavi DOCG on the label. Wines from Gavi grow in a multitude of soil types. The area also experiences continental and oceanic influences making it an ideal spot for white wine production.

Climate and Influences

Piemonte sits in Italy’s northwest corner. Portions of the Western and Central Alps are north of the area, providing a rain shadow and protection from northern winds.

Piemonte, Northwest Italy / Artwork by Brandon Wise

The climate in Gavi, in southeast Piemonte, sees cold winters and hot, airy summers. It experiences significant day-night temperature variation, which promotes flavor concentration while preserving the grape’s acidity.

Looking more closely at the area, Gavi gets most of its climate influence from the sea. Cool breezes and moderated temperatures allow for the Cortese grape to ripen slowly, maintaining its acidity levels.

Gavi DOCG wine is dry with aromas of lemon and apple. Given its proximity to the sea, some say that more complex versions have a hint of salinity to them or notes of seashell. Most expressions have a light body with medium to high acidity and a good amount of structure. The wine’s structure allows winemakers to experiment with bottle and barrel aging.

Gavi in Piemonte
A closer look at Piemonte / Artwork by Brandon Wise

Soil Types in Gavi

The most important type of soil in Gavi is limestone. It’s found in many famous winemaking regions, including Burgundy and Champagne. Generally speaking, limestone offers good drainage but also retains water in dry weather. It has beneficial nutrients, such as high pH, and is formed from organic material which once lived in the ancient seabed. It’s one of the best soil options for grapes with high acidity.

Two other soil types found in Gavi are red volcanic and clay soil. Volcanic soil – as the name suggests – results from an ancient volcanic eruption. It’s rich in minerals such as iron, calcium, and magnesium. Red volcanic soil, as found in Gavi, has exceptionally high proportions of iron, which gives it its color. Volcanic soil also reflects heat, holds water, and drains well.

Clay soils also have good water retention and keep the roots cool. In a hot vintage, it can be a savior. Many believe that clay’s round and often generous texture translates into a wine’s profile. It’s famous for producing bold wines in regions around the world.

Red volcanic soil / Image from SOMM TV
Clay soil / Image from SOMM TV

What to Pair With Gavi Wine

As with most Italian wines, it often tastes best alongside regional specialities. The same is true for Gavi. Given its light body and high acidity, it customarily goes with starters and vegetable dishes.

In this clip from A Closer Look at Gavi on SOMM TV, sommelier Matthew Kaner suggests a few food pairing ideas for this refreshing, sea-influenced wine.

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