Two Fine Italian Wines to Celebrate the arrival of Spring
Wine for april - Under $20
Banfi, "Principessa Gavia" Gavi DOCG 2012 (about $13)
No doubt about, spring is almost here and this miserable and insistent winter is coming, albeit reluctantly, to an end - at least I hope so. In April I typically start cleaning off the outdoor grill and getting the cushions for the patio furniture out of winter storage in preparation for gradually transitioning some my activities to the great outdoors.
So in preparation for this sunny transition, this month’s under-$20 wine selection is a white wine that is an ideal companion for a wide variety of outdoor entertaining and dining activities.
Gavi is the name of a type of white wine made entirely of Cortese grapes (sometimes referred to as Cortese di Gavi) grown in the Gavi production zone, an area comprised of 11 townships centered around the town of Gavi in the southwestern part of Italy’s Piedmont region. It is the Piedmont’s most famous white wine and one of the first white wines from Italy to gain international recognition. It received official DOC classification in 1974 and was rewarded with DOCG status in 1988.
Banfi is a Tuscany-based winery founded in 1978 by the Italian-American brothers, John and Harry Mariani. The winery has extensive vineyard holdings throughout Tuscany from which it produces a full range of red and white wines. Shortly after they founded Banfi, the Mariani brothers extended their holdings with the acquisition of a winery in the commune of Strevi in the lower part of the Piedmont region. Renamed Vigne Regali, this Banfi estate produces a number of wines made from local red and white varieties as well as some bottle-fermented sparkling wines. The Vigne Regali’s holdings include the Principessa Gavia Gavi vineyard which is used exclusively for the cultivation of the Cortesi di Gavi grape, the sole variety used in the production of the estate’s Principessa Gavia wine. Incidentally, this wine comes with a story which you can read about here in The Legend of Principessa Gavia.
Harvested in late summer, the Cortese grapes are soft pressed and then fermented in stainless steel tanks at controlled low temperatures so as to enhance the wine’s delicate aromas and crisp flavors.
The 2012 Principessa di Gavia is a delicate white wine that opens with fragrant green apple and melon aromas. It is well balanced with lively acidity, good texture, pleasing pear and citrus fruit flavors and a dry, crisp finish.
The Principessa di Gavia is ideal as an aperitif but also goes well with hors d’oeuvres and simply prepared seafood, chicken and veal dishes. It is also a great accompaniment to brunches involving omelets, quiche or frittate, especially when served on your patio or deck on a warm, early spring day.
Brovia, “Sori del Drago” Barbera d’Alba 2011 (about $27)
Brovia is an old, family-owned and operated winery located in Castiglione Falletto in the heart of the Piedmont region’s prestigious Barolo zone. Over its long history the family has been able to acquire vineyards in some of the Piedmont’s most prestigious growing areas in and around Castiglione Falletto and Serralunga d'Alba. And like most Piedmont wineries the Brovia estate produces a number of red and white wines from all the local Piemontese varieties and is perhaps most well known for several of its outstanding Barolo wines. Barbera wines account for only 10 percent of the estate’s total production.
Barbera is an interesting but unusual variety. Unusual in that Barbera has low tannins and high acidity. It is interesting in the sense that its low to moderate tannins, moderate alcohol and racy acidity combine to make an extremely versatile, food-friendly wine that will complement many different kinds of food.
Brovia’s Sori del Drago Barbera is made entirely from Barbera grapes harvested from the estate’s small Garblet vineyard in Castiglione Falletto. The grapes are harvested in late September, gently crushed and then fermented. After several weeks the wine is racked off into stainless steel tanks with a portion going into small, French-oak barrels where it ages for 15 to 18 months. The wine is then combined and bottled unfiltered where it spends several months before release for sale.
My wine club recently had a tasting of a half-dozen or so Barbera wines that included Brovia’s 2011 Sori del Drago. It was my favorite wine of the evening although not all my colleagues shared my high ranking assessment. It is a deeply colored, surprisingly robust yet refreshing wine. What I liked most was the wine’s exquisite balance. It has Barbera’s trademark racy, mouthwatering acidity but the acidity isn’t over-the-top or distractingly aggressive. The pleasing acidity is nicely balanced with robust red fruit flavors, discrete tannins and a long, pleasing finish that includes a touch of spice.
Given the escalation in prices of Barbera wines over the past decade, at about $26 a bottle this wine constitutes a real bargain. As mentioned above, Barbera wines are extremely food-friendly and go well with a wide range of foods. My recommendation is to buy several bottles of Brovia’s Sori del Drago and hold them in reserve for those festive gatherings that involve a mélange of foods with different textures and flavor profiles.
April 5, 2014
To view other wine of the month selections, see Monthly Wine Reviews