Week 30 – Cortese

We tasted: Gavi di Gavi £12 Marks and Spencer

Tasting Notes

Emma Says: “I have to confess Cortese, or “Gavi” as it is more commonly known, can be a bit of an insipid wine. The type of dry white that makes Andy wrinkle up his nose and say “it tastes wine-y”.

I sometimes wonder if it has reached so many lists in wine bars because “Gavi” has a nice ring to it, satisfyingly Italian and easy to pronounce. Perhaps it also gives the average Pinot Grigio lover something else to drink that is safely bone dry but not so characterful that it could be offensive. And given it has a more premium price tag than the average Italian Pinot Grigio you also get to feel a bit sophisticated.

To look at the other side of the argument, it could be that this delicate and faintly floral white was the type of white wine that would send me into a blind panic on my tasting exams. So I possibly hold a big grudge against it.

To give this poor grape a chance I chose a “Gavi di Gavi” tonight. That means the grapes come from the better slopes of the Gavi region that can only legally be called “Gavi di Gavi”. The remainder of the region is simply called Gavi. Yes, wine is confusing isn’t it.

I let the wine warm up a little which isn’t difficult in the current UK heatwave (It’s not a heatwave, it’s called ‘summer’ – Andy). Sometimes we chill these delicate whites to the bone and that mutes their light aromatics and flavour profile. I was pleased that it really did the trick. I could really detect a soft apricot note to the aroma and a gentle green tea herbal note with touches of honeysuckle. The palate had that pithy acidity that gives it that lean expression and the flavours were delicate on the fruit but with a pleasing mineral tension. It definitely worked as a thirst quencher for a hot summer’s day. I’m still not sure I find it exciting enough to be desperate for more. But on those nights where you just want something satisfyingly dry and white this would do the trick for me.

If you are a lover of these Northern Italian white styles I would urge you to seek out a few other grapes from those regions I find even more interesting than Cortese. Arneis from the same region has the same mineral edge but with a bit more richness on fruit and depth of flavour for me. I also love any white from the Collio region where they have gorgeous white blends and brilliant wines from Pinot Grigio, Fruilano and even Sauvignon Blanc. A rarity that I really enjoy is Manzoni which has heritage from Riesling and Pinot Bianco giving it a fascinating flavour profile.

On a final note the strength of acidity in grapes like Cortese make them great wines to drink alongside rich fatty foods but ones that aren’t too strong in flavour or they swamp the wine. For example a spring vegetable risotto, baked chicken breasts in white sauce or a pizza primavera.”

Andy says: “Well, this doesn’t taste wine-y.

I wish I could more eloquently describe what I mean by that. I just find that lots of white wine, and perhaps the ones at the cheaper end, all have a very similar ‘musty’ smell. This one doesn’t, in fact the first whiff I took was very fruity, tutti fruity in fact, melony pineappley chunks-y.

Unfortunately the taste doesn’t live up to the smell. There’s a hint of the fruit but at about 5% of the intensity of the smell. The real kicker though is that this really catches you at the back of the throat, like a rough whisky would. I don’t know if it’s acid or alcohol, probably acid. If I had to describe this in one word, it would be rough.

Edit: Tasting again 24 hours later, I’d like to revise down my acidity rating. It’s there, I feel it, but it’s not as high as I thought yesterday.”

Buying Guide

Cortese is in fact that grape that makes the wine called Gavi; the wine name coming from the village in Piedmont, Italy rather than the grape. To try the very best version of Cortese look for wines labelled “Gavi di Gavi” which is a smaller sub region where the best vineyard sites are situated.

6 thoughts to “Week 30 – Cortese”

  1. Back on familiar turf with Gavi. I tried Broglia Gavi di Gavi 2017 from Waitrose (£15.99) and it was just how I would expect a Gavi to be.

    In appearance it was clear medium straw with some quite syrupy “tears”. The nose was very sharp lemons with minerally (chalky) notes. At first there was a barely perceptible nugget of sweetness in there but some honeydew melon scent came out after it had been open for while. The sharpness also faded a little bringing out the chalk even more.

    It was very dry with medium body to taste. Crisp and sharp with acidic lemon and grapefruit leading the charge and a grimace-inducing finish at first. It definitely benefited from being open for a while. It became much more balanced with the acid calming down and allowing some rounded sweet flavours to come through. It was still crisp and clean, but with some stone fruit and honey notes. The flavours were elegant and unshowy compared to last week’s exotic Torrontes. The finish was ok – some length but nothing remarkable.

    Side note: apparently it was a vegan wine which was interesting. I didn’t notice any difference so it made me wonder whether more wines will stop using animal-sourced fining agents to capture the trend. (I once flirted with Veganuary which is the only reason I know what a fining agent is!)

    1. Hi Will, interesting point about Vegan wines. It is actually really easy for wineries to use vegan substitutes to animal products for finishing wine. I think about 70% of wines at M&S are vegan as a result. I’m sure with the vegan trend we’ll be seeing plenty more in the future…

  2. Wine -La Monetta Gavi del Comune di Gavi, 2017 (Waitrose £13)
    Bottle says – pear, citrus, almonds

    I usually only order Gavi from Italian restaurants, so it was nice to pay only £13 for a bottle……..
    It’s always been a ‘safe’ choice for me, not too far up the wine list, always consistent but never a wine I thought “I think I’ll buy a case of this….”.

    This wine is a pale straw colour, and has really fresh gooseberries, limes and apples on the nose with a slightly floral tinge. The overall aroma is extremely fresh; both straight out of the fridge, and even after a while in the glass.

    Because of this freshness, I was expecting a really acidic wine, but I was surprised at how soft it was, especially for an Italian wine. Maybe it’s a case of the Emperor’s New Clothes, but it was this softness that seemed to elevate this wine above the all the Gavi that I had tried before.

    There was a little tartness to the wine, but rather than being the defining characteristic, it formed a robust frame for the other flavours in the wine. These consisted predominantly of white pears, lime zest and apple peel with a hint of salty butter and a creamy finish.

    I would definitely explore this wine further, especially due to not normally being a massive fan of Italian whites due to the high acidity levels.

    Can’t wait to try a Gavi di Gavi di Gavi.

  3. Tesco Finest Gavi
    30 weeks in to post my first notes, not a great record but hopefully the start of something more regular. Having been treated to some serious displays of Emma’s nasal prowess last week i thought i would give it a go. I totally agree that the taste didn’t live up to the smell. I had high hopes after quite distinct notes of caramel, mandarin peel and pear drops (is that the acidy smell you were telling me about Em?)

    I like the term “wine-y”. I thought it tasted slightly bland, i like to describe it as sort of grassy and sharp. It didn’t taste like i thought it would from the smell. however, it was very drinkable and refreshing straight from the fridge. Maybe i should have let it warm a little. Will have to have another bottle tonight. 😉

    1. A belated hello to our newbie reviewer. Great to have you on here.
      And that pear drop smell often comes from whites that have had a “cool fermentation” it brings out compounds called esters which have that character. It can be nice but if it becomes overt it does have a confected feel which I’m not massively keen on. I guess you’ll need to drink another bottle of Gavi to see what I mean 😉

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