The problem with “best of” lists, like my compilation of some of the year’s top wines a few weeks ago, is that once they come out a late discovery inevitably emerges that would certainly have made the cut, as with this week’s wonderful wine from Italy.
Fortunately, there’s still time to get the word out, just under the wire for the holidays. If it’s a beautiful white wine you’re dreaming of, either as a gift or as a rich and elegant wine to serve before or during a special dinner, this one will be hard to beat. The 2003 Gavi “Filagnotti” from Cascina degli Ulivi is the best Gavi I have tasted in years and certainly among the better Italian whites I’ve had in the last year or so. For its quality it is well priced at about $18.50.
These days, Gavi is not exactly at the center of the wine world. When I asked a friend in the business her impression she quickly summed it up this way: “I’m happy to have it, but I know it’s just a beginning-of-the-meal, wash down kind of thing.” Indeed, Gavi lost popularity after “less scrutinous winemaking led to a glut of commercial and uninspired Gavis in the 1980s and ‘90s,” the importer, Louis/Dressner Selections, notes on its Web site. Joe Dressner, who has begun to expand his portfolio from France into Italian wines, told me he looks for producers “who try to make something beyond the reputation of the region.”
Cascina degli Ulivi succeeds with its distinctive Gavi “Filagnotti.” For the beginning of a meal? Certainly. But it is also an exquisite main wine for fish or herbed chicken or pork. One is immediately seduced by the aromas — citrus, honey, strong minerals, tarragon. Peach, strawberry and more herbal notes emerge in the mouth, with a long finish of concentrated lemon.
Gavi, in case you’re not familiar with it, is in the Piedmont region of the north and refers to the town of the same name. The grape is the local Cortese, which grows in limestone-rich clays that produce Gavi’s pronounced mineral quality. Cascina degli Ulivi is run by Stefano Bellotti and his wife Zita, who farm about 30 acres using organic and biodynamic methods. Very low grape yields and hand harvesting contribute to the quality of this Gavi, which is made in large oak casks.
There’s one more thing I like here, something I don’t usually care about or bother to mention. It’s the charming label, which evokes the memory of the Bellottis’ dog, whose name was Filagnotti.
I bought the wine at Chambers Street Wines in New York. For more information you can write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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