Cortese is one of those unfortunate grapes that just doesn’t get enough loving. Really… it doesn’t. And this is a sad fact in the often fickle world of wine.
Found in small quantities in both Lombardy and Veneto, in my mind it is in southeastern Piedmont that the grape can truly shine. As the grape behind Piedmont’s Gavi it is oft overlooked as it sits alongside a lineup of the undoubtedly noble Nebbiolo and the very solid Barbera and Dolcetto varietals. Even the rather obscure Arneis seems to get more action on Sommelier’s lists that Cortese. But peek a little deeper into the cellars of a few smaller wineries and one will discover some houses who show that this lesser-known white grape is capable of some wonderful things
Last week I had the pleasure of having lunch at Toronto’s Loire restaurant with Winemaker Dario Bergaglio from La Chiara, Gavi. Dario was in town to meet Terry and Lloyd from Good Food Fighters The Case For Wine and I was fortunate enough to be invited to taste through his family’s current bottlings before they are officially available in Canada.
From a simple and yet delightful Gavi Classico, through the divine “Black Label” Reserva, to their barrique-aged Gavi, all of the wines were quite exceptional. I was particularly impressed with his Reserva, some good skin and lees contact making for a wine with considerable depth and complexity, not qualities that one usually associates with Gavi by any means.
I’ll admit that when I thought of the Cortese grape being put through any kind of oak regime I had my doubts, but after experimenting with varied treatments over the decades, La Chiara appear to have developed an elevage that perfectly suits this particularly high acid/mineral focused varietal. Impressive, and certainly more than a simple curiosity.
At Good Food Revolution we are very much looking forward to seeing Dario’s wines in the Ontario in the coming months. Seek them out!
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Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And that really was a great lunch at Loirrre! The Skate Wing was divine with Dario’s wines.