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swirl and savor

Wine of the Moment: Michele Chiarlo Gavi

Beth Ribblett

The history of the white wine of the Cortese vine is as old as that of the town of Gavi where it was first produced over one thousand years ago. Believed to be native to the province of Alessandria, at the foot of the Appenine Mountains, the white wines of Gavi are mentioned in writings dated June, 972, when the vineyards surrounding the castle of Gavi belonged to the Bishop of Genova and were leased to local free peasants to grow white grapes. Over the centuries, the castle and its vineyards were passed from one royal family to another, and in 1411 fell to the French as the spoils of a war waged with the viscounts of Milan. Both Gavi and Genova remained in French hands until June of 1800.

Its steeply inclined upper slopes, extremely difficult to cultivate, are characterized by argilo-calcerous and volcanic soils with noticeable iron content, shot with veins of chalky limestone similar to that found in Champagne and Chablis. Situated a distance of 30 miles inland from the sea, the zone is warmed by Mediterranean breezes which temper cool mountain air, creating a perfect variation in temperature for the maturation of the fruit. The resulting wine is very dry and delicate.

Because the Cortese grape is so extremely fragile, Michele Chiarlo is particularly watchful to acquire fruit of the most perfect soundness possible, and of optimum maturity, from the most exceptional vineyard areas of Gavi. The grapes are pressed without crushing within ten minutes of their arrival at the winery, and the must is immediately refrigerated to 40 F to 45 F and allowed to settle for 12 to 15 hours. It is then racked into stainless steel tanks in which a low-temperature fermentation, at 60 F to 65 F, lasts from twenty to twenty-five days. The wine is left on its lees until ready to be bottled. The alcoholic fermentation is initiated only with natural yeasts, and no malolactic is carried out.

Michele Chiarlo Gavi is an extremely elegant wine, pale gold with hints of green, and delicately scented in bouquet. It is a classic expression of the Cortese grape; delicate and refined, with lean, subtle pear and white fruit flavors and a fragrance of acacia blossoms offset by notes of almonds.

Want to try it before you buy it? This wine will be featured in our upcoming tasting on July14th with Antonio Molesini. We'll be tasting 6 wines from the Piemonte region including Gavi, Arneis, Dolcetto, Barbera, Moscato and more. But space is limited so please call to reserve a spot, 504.304.0635