Saturday, November 25, 2023

Gavi: One of Piedmont's Great White Wines

As we round out these last couple weeks of November, this week I'm focusing on the Piedmont wine region and one of its great white grapes, Cortese, specifically the wines produced from the Gavi area. You can find this area located in the southeastern corner of Piedmont where Piedmont merges with the region of Liguria within the provinces of Monferrato and Alessandria. The landscape of this area not only has hills and valleys with the Ligurian Apennines nearby, but it’s only about 30 miles north of Genoa with the Ligurian Sea influences.

wine map of gavi wine region

Wines have shown up in documents within the area of Gavi since 972 AD, but this region had historically been based on red wines. By the 17th century documentation shows that the vineyards had completely converted over to the Cortese grape. After phylloxera had hit the area, producers chose to replant their vineyards with the Cortese grape over the Dolcetto grape. Much success and attention was drawn to the Cortese grape driven by the producer La Scolca. 

In 1974 Gavi earned the DOC certification. In the 80’s Cortese’s quality declined due to its high yields and production of neutral, acidic wines. Into the 90’s Cortese’s quality recovered earning the Gavi DOCG certification in 1998. The Gavi DOCG wines hail from 11 communes within the Alessandria province produced from 100% Cortese. You may also see the wines labeled as Gavi di Gavi and those are wines that come specifically come from the Gavi commune.  

Legend has it that these wines were named after Princess Gavia. In 528 she fled the wrath of her father, Clodomiro the King of France, due to her love for a young page that he disapproved of. She fled to the hills of Gavi to seek refuge from the troops and hence this area was named after her. Not sure of how much truth there are in these legends of these names come about, but it is always a fun read. 

Cortese grapes for Gavi wines

The area in which Gavi is grown has a moderately continental climate with cold winters and warm summers. There is great air circulation with such close proximity to the Ligurian Sea. The wines of Gavi will show better in warmer vintages as they will have more body and flavors than those in cold vintages that tend to be more lean. Cortese tends to be a grape that has nice crisp acidity with subtle aromas showing notes of citrus, almond and minerality. It’s a wine that is meant to be drunk in its youth. The Consorzio Tutela del Gavi descibes the Cortese grape as “elegant and a delicate bouquet, with hints of fresh fruit and white flowers, with notes of citrus and bitter almonds, enriched with age by mineral scents and complexity”. 

I don’t have a particular wine to share with you today with the chaos of the holidays and preparation for my family vacation coming up, but you can check out some of my prior blogs on Gavi wines. 

I’ve written a number of times about Michele Chiarlo’s wines here including my feature last week on the Michele Chiarlo Barbera, the Gavi featured above and others. It’s unfortunate to hearing of his passing November 18th at the age of 88. It’s beautiful to see his sons carry on the family’s traditions and Michele’s love and passion for wine.  

You can find other Cortese and Gavi wines at 


Information and pictures sourced from the Consorzio Tutela del Gavi. 
*I may receive commissions if any wines are purchased directly from the above site to support the operations of Vino Travels.  

Saturday, November 11, 2023

Classic Barbera with Michele Chiarlo

As we’re approaching the Thanksgiving holiday we all look forward to good times with family and friends along with good food and of course good wine. The question every Thanksgiving that folks wonder is which is the best wine to pair with your turkey and all the fixings. It’s a tough question considering the variety of flavors all mixed in on our dishes. The simple response is to drink what you like. Although, there are wines that will pair well on your Thanksgiving table due to their versatility. One of those grapes is the Barbera grape and that’s what I’ll be sharing today. 

Barbera grapes from Piedmont
Barbera grapes - copyright of Consorzio Barbera d'Asti

The Barbera Grape 

Over the years I have featured a couple wines from the known Michele Chiarlo winery of Piedmont. I won’t dig too much into the winery today as you can reference it in my previous article. The Barbera grape shows appearance in historical documents in Piedmont since 1512. Initially it was a grape that farmers used for their own personal consumption. As the word got out about Barbera and spread throughout the provinces it made it’s way on the theAmpelografia” list of Piedmont vines from the Count Nuvolone in 1798 and started to creep into international markets. 

In the 1980’s multiple producers devoted much effort to increase the quality of Barbera through their extensive work in the vineyards and cellars. Barbera is the most abundant grape fo the Piedmont wine region in northwestern Italy occupying 30% of the vineyard acreage

The wine I’m featuring today, the 2017 Michele Chiarlo “Le Orme” Barbera d’Asti DOCG, is grown from the Asti area as the designation insinuates in its name. The wines of the Barbera d’Asti DOCG are grown in the hills of the Monferrato and Asti hills. Originally this grape comes from Monferrato, but is grown mostly in the provinces of Asti and Alessandria. It was originally recognized as a DOC in 1970 and received the DOCG designation later in 2008

In 2000 3 sub-areas were delimited to express these areas true identity of Barbera d’Asti that comes along with stricter regulations. These sub-areas include Tinella, Colli Astiani and Nizza. Nizza was upgraded to its own DOCG designation starting with the 2014 vintage. 

map of Barbera d'Asti production zone
Copyright of Consorzio Barbera d'Asti
The Barbera of today is produced in a variety of styles whether it spends time in stainless or wood, but overall this is a grape that produces wines with freshness, pleasant acidity and great fruit mostly red fruits towards darker skinned fruits. The usage of wood will add vanilla nuances, spice and possibly some balsamic notes.  You’ll also see this grape grown throughout Italy and the world exemplifying it’s terroir, but in my opinion Piedmont will always be its home. 

The Wine 

Michele Chiarlo works with 4 of the classic, native grapes of Piedmont including Barbera, Nebbiolo, Cortese and Moscato. This week I tasted the 2017 Michele Chiarlo “Le Orme” Barbera d’Asti DOCG this week is made from 100% Barbera. This is considered their flagship wine and a classic Barbera. The name given to the wine, Le Orme, translates to the footsteps. In my opinion it represents the mark that Michele Chiarlo leaves behind him in serving over 60 harvests in the family’s business, especially working with this special grape in the region.  

The grapes that make up this wine are sourced from the family’s all 4 estates in the Nizza area including the esteemed La Court vineyard.   The soils are considered “Astian” soils that is sandy soil rich in limestone. The grapes spend 10 days macerating with the skins and are fermented in stainless steel. They are further refined for an additional 16 months with 3 months in oak and the rest in stainless steel and time in the bottle. 

The 2017 Michele Chiarlo “Le Orme” Barbera d’Asti DOCG had a little age on it, but was still drinking nicely. Ruby colored with a touch of purple hues. Aromas of plums, blackberries and black cherry. Medium-bodied and fresh on the palate. Cherry, blackberry and savory notes creating a pleasant wine where the flavors and elements are in harmony. A touch of tannins that are elegant towards the lingering finish. ABV 13.5% SRP $12.99

2017 Michele Chiarlo Le Orme Barbera d'Asti
I paired this wine this week with a bacon wrapped filet with a side of roasted butternut squash.  I also tried it with pork gyoza potstickers I got from Trader Joe's.  All pairing lovely with this Barbera d'Asti so explore and try it with a number of dishes and you'll experience it's versatility as well.

Do you have a favorite Barbera?

You can find Barbera wines as well as the wines of Michele Chiarlo  on 


Information sourced from the Consorzio Barbera d'Asti e Vini del Monferrato
*I may receive commissions if any wines are purchased directly from the above site to support the operations of Vino Travels.