Body: Light to medium, but can also be full
Dry / Sweet: Dry
Age: Generally drink while young and fresh, however better quality wines need two or three years to reach their best.
Cortese (kor-TEH-zeh) is a grape native to Piedmont in northwest Italy and has been grown in this region since at least the middle of the 17th century. It is best known as the sole variety used in the production of Gavi, regarded as one of the finest white wines of Piedmont.
It is an early ripening grape and its main characteristic is the retention of high levels of acidity, even in the hottest of years. This gives the wines great refreshing, as well as food pairing, qualities and is the reason it became so popular in restaurants along the Ligurian coast, just south of Piedmont.
However, in cool years it can be intensely sharp with low sugar levels and may require barrel fermentation, malolactic fermentation, or even the addition of a small amount of sweet grape must to keep the wine in balance (grape must is the juice of freshly crushed grapes, which includes fragments of pulp, seeds, pips and stalks). Cortese can also be quite prolific, so restricted yields are necessary to concentrate the fruit and body of the wine, which also helps keep the acidity in check.
Generally, the wines are light to medium bodied with high acidity, but the better wines tend to be more full bodied with a richer texture, whilst still remaining vivid and refreshing. Occasionally, a producer will undertake fermentation on the lees, giving the wine extra texture, so much so that it can almost become Rich in style.
As demand for Gavi has increased, many wineries have taken advantage by producing large quantities of thin, sharp wine, which is refreshing at best. Nonetheless, the better producers make deliciously refreshing wines with great character and flavor.
You can expect delicate aromas of citrus fruits and roasted almond, followed by flavors of lemon, grapefruit, green apple, melon, pear and white peach, with a mineral edge and occasionally a creamy and nutty texture. Most should be drunk while young and fresh, but better quality wines need two or three years to reach their best.
Because of its reputation and location within Piedmont, many Gavi wines command high prices, but only rarely are they complex wines of exceptional quality.
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