There is a great amount of studying you can do on your own to learn about wine – reading books, memorizing flash cards, studying maps etc. But if I taste wines on my own I need someone or something else to compare notes. Sometimes I will write my notes for a wine and then look on the Internet for reviews and other people’s perception of the wine. While this can be helpful to a certain degree, there is no give-and-take, no discussion, no exchange of perceptions in which you say to each other, “I am picking up some aromas of green melon...” to which the other person might reply, “Yes, I can get that but I think it is more like kiwi fruit…” This is where the advantage of learning within the context of a study group becomes a great advantage, even if it only consists of just two people.
In my previous review of our April 27th group meeting, in which we are currently studying northern Italy, I discussed our first white wine, a 2012 Vietti Roero Arneis. The second wine we tasted in our study group meeting was a Gavi di Gavi from the La Meirana vineyard owned by the Bruno Broglia Family winery. This is not a “grid wine” for the Certified or Advanced Sommelier exams but it is an important grape to know from this region.
Reading Italian Wine Labels
One of the major challenges to understanding Italian wine is reading the labels. In the USA red wines are generally labeled according to the grape variety (Syrah, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon…) or they are given a proprietary blend name or labeled simply “Red Table Wine.”
In France wines are labeled according to their region which requires the consumer to know what grapes are grown in their vineyards, except for Alsace which labels their wines according to the grape varietal.
In Italy a wine may be labeled according to a brand name (such as “Sassicaia”), a region (such as “Chianti”), its grape varietal or a combination of the two. So, when reading the label that says “2012 Broglia Gavi La Meirana” you would need to know that “Broglia” is the producer, “Gavi” is a town in Piedmont where they grow the Cortese grape and “La Meirana” is the vineyard. Since Cortese di Gavi (Cortese from Gavi) is not as internationally well-known Italian grape as Pinot Grigio, reading this label can be a bit challenging for the average consumer.
The Cortese di Gavi DOCG
Cortese di Gavi is located in north-western Italy in the southern part of Piedmont, it was awarded DOC status in 1974 and it became a DOCG in 1998. The DOCG regulations restrict the production of Cortese di Gavi to the area formed by the following towns: Bosio, Capriata d'Orba, Carrosio, Francavilla Bisio, Gavi, Novi Ligure, Parodi Ligure, Pasturana, San Cristoforo, Serravalle Scrivia, and Tassarolo. The wine is made exclusively from the Cortese grape, an indigenous white grape variety which has a heritage dating back to the 1600s.
The word “Cortese” is found for the first time in a letter by the manager of the Montaldeo castle to margrave Doria in 1659. For a long time the vineyards were primarily planted with red varieties such as Nibiö (local name for Dolcetto) or Barbera while white varieties were in the minority. The first large-scale vineyard blocks of Cortese went into production as of 1856, on the properties of the margrave Cambiaso, La Centuriona and La Toledana in Gavi.
In 1869 Demaria and Leardi, two scientists on the ampelographical commission, which was established by the province of Allessandria, defined Cortese as “an indigenous, robust and fertile grape variety, that has been known and cultivated in the region for a long time”.
A foaming spumante version is also made and some wines will undergo barrel maturation. Its vineyards are primarily found in the hills of 13 communes in the province of Alessandria, the most prominent are Gavi, Novi Ligure, Serravalle Scrivia and Arquata Scrivia. Wines that labeled “Gavi di Gavi” may do so only if their fruit comes from vineyards in the township of Gavi.
The Winery - Bruno Broglia
The Broglia winery was founded by Bruno Broglia with the first release in 1974 and today the winery is lead by Paolo and Gian Piero Broglia. Most wineries in Piedmont are focused on the production of red wines, especially Barolo and Barbaresco, but Broglia winery is almost completely dedicated to the production of white wine under the Gavi di Gavi DOCG classification. The Broglia vineyards consists of 63 hectares (155 acres) from which they produce four styles of Gavi, 3 still styles and 1 Spumante sparkling style.
This “Bruno Broglia” Gavi di Gavi is the winery’s “flagship” wine made from the best Cortese grapes harvested from some of the oldest vines located in the Broglia vineyards. It was fermented in stainless steel tanks, ahead of undergoing a six month period of maturation on the lees of that fermentation to add richness and complexity to the finished wine.
The 2012 Broglia Gavi La Meirana is a clear white wine, lemon in color with a tint of green and medium+ viscosity. On the nose it has moderate intense aromas of lemon floral soap, green vegetal notes, herbs, hints of wet river rocks. On the palate it has more tropical notes with additional flavors of dried guava, banana peel, but it finishes with lemon. It is dry but potentially it has a little residual sugar to counter-balance the medium+ acidity. It has a medium body, moderate alcohol (12.9 abv.) and a moderate+ length finish. This is an excellent wine and is an excellent alternative to the ocean of Chardonnay in the world. But if tasted blind I find it difficult to find anything in it that makes it radically distinct from other white wines that lets you know, “I am a Cortese from northern Italy.” But, perhaps I need more experience with this grape. This wine retails for about $20 to $25 per bottle.