Venturing inland from Genova, passing the border into southern Piemonte and Lemme Valley, the first wine producing territory you will encounter is Gavi. Gavi is a town of just 4500 inhabitants, surrounded by gently rolling hills covered in forest and vineyards that create a pleasing, harmonious, almost courteous landscape – just like Gavi’s white wine, arguably the clearest and whitest of Piemontese wines.
Overlooking the city and surrounding scenery is Mount Moro, upon which sits the Fort of Gavi: first a castle, then a prison, and today custodian of the history of Gavi territory and its signature wine, Gavi DOCG.
The origins of Gavi, from history to legend
The first detailed descriptions of Cortese, the grape variety that is used in purity to make Gavi DOCG, was written in 1798 by Count Nuvolone Pergame, scholar and ampelographer. It is hypothesized that this area began cultivating Cortese for white wine after the Lombards invaded in the Early Middle Ages, after which prevalently white grapes were planted.
The first official document that testifies to Gavi’s winemaking traditions dates back to 972 A.D., when “Teolfo, Bishop of Genova, gave freemen Pietro and Andrea vineyard and chestnut trees owned by the Genovese church in Gavi and Meirana.”
And of course, with every ancient story comes a legend. The legend of Gavi ties the name of this wine to Princess Gavia, daughter of King Chlodomer of France. Famous for her beauty and gentle manner, she fell in love with a commoner, and they escaped to the castle on Mount Moro. With the blessing of the Pope, they were granted the castle and its surrounding territory.
Let’s begin our voyage into the discovery of Gavi at its origins, when Meirana is cited in documentation from the High Middle Ages. Here at the Meirana estate in Lomellina, today seat of the prestigious Broglia winery, we’re accompanied by manager Roberto Broglia to begin our tasty adventure.
The Broglia family and ancient vineyards of Tenuta Meirana
In 1972, Tenuta (Estate) Meirana was purchased by Bruno Broglia, an entrepreneur in the textile sector. It became the heart of the Azienda Vinicola Broglia, releasing its first vintage in 1974, the same year Gavi received the DOC denomination.
The Broglia winery, which overlooks the vineyard-cultivated hills of Meirana, produces a sublime expression of Gavi, its territory, and its history.
Today, the winery cultivates Cortese on its 100 hectares (247 acres) of property. In its third generation, Broglia has received numerous recognitions that have led their wines to not only appear in principle wine guides, but to also grace the tables of important events such as the G20 in St. Petersburg and G8 in Aquila.
When we ask what characteristics and nuances have given Broglia’s wines their international success, Roberto doesn’t hesitate to respond, “Its quality.” He explains that Gavi, “can absolutely be defined as the ‘white Barolo’ for its elegance, but also for total hectares of vineyard cultivated: 1500 for Cortese and 1600 for Barolo. And both have just 11 townships in which production of the wines is permitted.”
An elegant white
Gavi is a dry, fresh, elegant white wine that often shows notes of bitter almond and a great minerality that comes from the clayey-marl and calcareous soil. It is a white wine that knows how to age very well over the years. Gavi pairs perfectly with white meat, fish, and vegetables that are typical of Ligurian cuisine, which testifies to the strong influence that Genova has historically held over this territory – seen in the dialect and architecture, as well.
The Cortese grape was originally thought to be best for producing sparkling wine. In fact, the Count of Cavour decided to use Cortese for his own, personal sparkling wine. Gavi hit the foreign markets in the 19th century with all its bubbly personality. Then, as Roberta explains, “The market evolved and began to prefer the still version of Gavi, a preference that grew to represent the largest share of sales, especially in Russia where Cortese stands for a fine white Italian wine.”
Meirana’s product line is an example of the diverse expressions of Cortese, where its five labels of 100% Cortese: still, gently sparkling (or frizzante, “frizzy”), sparkling, Riserva, and Riserva Spumante metodo classico.
Red, white, and…tourism!
When asked about future projects, Roberta tells us that the main commitment of the winery is to continue producing high quality wines, matching or going above and beyond the elevated standards of the past. Then, they also have a new line of wines, presented at Vinitaly 2015, made from selecting the best grapes of producers who grow Barbera, Nebbiolo, and Moscato. They monitor all stages of winemaking.
Another project involves the relaunching and promotion of tourism. Gavi is a paradise for wine lovers, and for anyone who would like a peaceful getaway from the hectic pace of everyday life. Roberto notes the strategic position of Gavi: it is just over an hour away from Genova and Milan, not far from golf courses, and near the Langhe as well as the outlets of Serravalle Scrivia, popular with their Russian clients.
In addition, the Gavi territory has several wine tourist events throughout the year. “From Gavi to Gavi” (di Gavi in Gavi) takes place in August; and “Open Wineries” (Cantine Aperte) is very popular. The food markets in this area are incredible, with traditional foods like amaretti and baci di dama cookies, testa in cassetta (head cheese), and the famous ravioli figli from Casinca Raviola. “Because of these offerings,” says Roberto, “we recently finished work in 2014 on the estate for an agriturismo. We can host guests in a comfortable, spacious apartment, surrounded by our beautiful countryside, where they can admire the hills of Gavi and, on clear days, the snowy outline of the Alps in the distance.”
Photo Credits: Sara Frau & Broglia-La Meirana web site