Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Wine Review: Araldica Gavi “La Battistina” DOCG (2010)

Araldica Gavi “La Battistina” DOCG (2010) Review:
Price: £8 per bottle
Availability: Restaurants and Independent Merchants

Araldica’s Gavi “La Battistina” comes from possibly the most fashionable region in Italian white wine at the moment. A sub-region located within Piedmont (largely famous for the red wines of Barolo and Barbaresco), the Gavi DOCG zone of production sits toward the South East of Piedmont, within the province of Alessandria, close the Ligurian border. Wrapped around the village of Gavi, wines labelled within the Gavi DOCG are always formed of only the Cortese grape (although Cortese is rarely mentioned on the label). Around 1500 hectares of vineyards qualify for this Gavi DOCG designation, with areas awarded DOCG classification considered the very finest within Italian wine.

A grape variety that has spread only a little since it was first formally recorded as existing in 1659, Cortese may be considered indigenous to northern Italy with limited plantings in Lombardy and Veneto supplementing those in Piedmont (although these additional planting cannot be bottled under the Gavi DOCG classification). Typically light and crisp, the Cortese grape and Gavi DOCG wines are often compared to Pinot Grigio, although Gavi typically offers moderate acidity paired with a little additional depth of fruit that Pinot Grigio cannot offer. Consumers are often seen “trading up” in flavour to Gavi (such as this Gavi “La Battistina”), once they have found Italian Pinot Grigio to be to their liking.

Always popular in the restaurants of coastal towns in Liguria, just south of Piedmont (such as Genoa), Gavi typically pairs well with seafood and has garnered an increasing following internationally as a result of this trait and it’s subtle, easy drinking style. Whilst in cooler vintages Gavi can become quite acidic in nature, modern winemaking techniques such as malolactic fermentation and fermentation in oak for some wines has lessened the quantities of wines with these characteristics being produced.

One of the largest producers in Piedmont, the co-operative that is Araldica was founded in 1954 and purchased the “La Battistina” estate in 2002. 22 hectares in size, the “La Battistina” estate is formed of Cortese vineyards which are south-facing and situated on top of a very favourable combination of limestone and clay. Vines average 35 years of age, adding intensity and complexity to the wines that are made from their fruit.

After hand picking, the Cortese grapes destined for this Gavi “La Battistina” are pressed before being subjected to temperature controlled fermentation in steel tanks to ensure a purity of fruit and consistency. The wine remains in contact with the “lees” (dead yeast and other particles that are left over from fermentation) for three months to add richness prior to filtering and bottling.

Bottled in a low shouldered, Burgundy-shaped bottle, most of the front label of this Gavi “La Battistina” is taken over by a large “B” (presumably an abbreviation of “Battistina”). A green and gold foil (also with “B” branding) is enclosed by a green DOCG tag with a real cork sealing the wine.

In the glass, this Gavi “La Battistina” is a pale straw yellow. Clear throughout there is a minimal fade in the intensity of the colour towards the rim of the wine. Being as pale as it is, it can be difficult to pick out the legs of this Gavi “La Battistina” when it is swirled, being as it is, a low 12% in alcohol (some prior vintages of this Gavi “La Battistina” have shown up to 13.5% abv).

On the nose, ripe pear along with a little peach leads. Initially fairly rounded, a touch of lime and greengage freshens the bouquet of this Gavi “La Battistina” and adds a hint that acidity lies ahead in the palate. Relatively restrained in nature, certainly not overt, the aromas of this Gavi “La Battistina” are balanced and in harmony.

In the mouth, this Gavi “La Battistina” is medium bodied (despite its low alcohol) and smooth - almost certainly due to the time this wine spent on it’s lees during winemaking. Creamy peach notes are tempered by zesty citrus in a palate which is moderately long and balanced. On swallowing this Gavi “La Battistina”, the finish is persistent and refreshing thanks to an underlying streak of acidity that provides a spine of minerality to this wine. Sometimes dubbed “the Chablis of Italy” (especially when grown on limestone-based soils like this Gavi “La Battistina”), here the basis of this comparison is evident.

In conclusion, this Gavi “La Battistina” is an accomplished and enjoyable white from Piedmont. Still a crisp and refreshing wine, there is enough fruit present in this Gavi “La Battistina” to offer interest above and beyond many entry level Cortese-based wines and other Northern Italian whites. Clever vinification with the lees left from fermentation has added complexity and creaminess to this Gavi “La Battistina” that may otherwise have been crisper and lacking some of the richer fruit notes.

Araldica have survived and expanded by taking what they term forward-looking “wagers” throughout their history. Judging by this 2010 Gavi “La Battistina”, the purchase of the “La Battistina” estate in 2002 may just be paying off.

Araldica Gavi “La Battistina” DOCG (2010)

Score: 83/100 – Perfectly balanced and eminently drinkable. Good stuff!

Value for Money: 8/10 – Great quality and versatility available at under a tenner.