Give gavi a go – the workhorse wine that really shines
Araldica Valle Vento Organic Gavi, Italy 2019 (£13.99, Virgin Wines) All supermarkets have a gavi and usually it’s a dry white that is slightly more interesting than the cheaper generic Italians – the cut-price soaves and pinot grigios – that sit alongside it. Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Tesco, M&S, Asda… all have decent examples that will not let you down if you’re in the market for a wine to go with chicken roasted with lemon and a handful of herbs, grilled halloumi and roasted vegetables, or a simple fish dish. Many of those good gavi wines are the work of the reliable co-operative Araldica, which is also the name in the small print on many of the best own-label reds from the same northwestern Italian region as gavi: Piedmont. The gavi Araldica makes under its own Valle Vento label is a cut above, though: spotless, clean and lemon-grove scented.
La Giustiniana Lugarara Gavi di Gavi, Italy 2019 (£17.50, Eton Vintners, Bottle Apostle, Hedonism) Gavi can do the consistently quite good and good value better than many of its peers. But can it reach the shiver-down-the-spine heights of the best small producer pinot grigio and soave from the other side of northern Italy – wines such as the single-vineyard soave of Pieropan or Gini, or pinot grigio from the likes of Lis Neris and Vie di Romans in Friuli? I certainly think the gavi vineyards, which take in 11 communes in Piedmont’s southeastern Alessandria province, are capable of much more than reliable competence. There’s something limpid about the more ambitious gavi that is as beguiling as taking a dip in a cool stream, an effect that is combined, in the case of La Giustiniana’s superb example, with apple juiciness and the zing of lemon rind.
La Scolca Gavi dei Gavi, Italy 2019 (£36.10, Hedonism, Goedhuis & Co) That brightness and purity is even more luminous in the wines of the producer that did much to lift the reputation of gavi in the late 1960s, La Scolca. And it’s the quality of wines like this, as much as the popularity and consistency of cheaper bottlings, that have persuaded producers outside Piedmont to see what they can do with the area’s indigenous grape, cortese. There are promising examples being made in Australia’s Adelaide Hills, but the best I’ve tried were from the minuscule plantings of cortese in California. It helps that two of the state’s best winemakers are involved: the natural wine savant Evan Lewandowski uses it to make his spicy-herbal Chilion; and the gifted Steve Matthiasson’s Tendu Cortese 2018 (£17.95, standrewswine.co.uk) is as vibrant as any gavi.