Piemonte, once only known for its great red wines, is changing face. A new, but in fact old, territory is receiving increasing international attention for its great white wines. In speaking terms it is called ´Isola dei bianchi’, refering to Gavi and Colli Tortonesi in south-east Piemonte. Regions with much history: Gavi was built 2000 years ago along the Roman pathway Via Postumia, and Libarna was seated at the oldest road from the sea to Italian inland. Romans cultivated vineyards in the surroundings. Both were united in the Obertengo Marchesate, in early Middle Age. In 19th century Gavi became an important source of white wine for Genoa and this was the basis for the success of Gavi DOCG, one of Italy´s most successful brands with ca 12 million bottles sold. The Colli Tortonesi strangely enough, did not see much development until recently. Strange because the territory is situated midway between Milan and Genoa, two important metropols and important wine markets.
Now that the Colli Tortonesi is developing it creates a new momentum: is this region the new great´white´ concurrent of the Langhe?
Foto: vineyards in Gavi
Gavi DOCG is a wonderful expression of Cortese grapes grown in the light mineral soils of Gavi, on the outskirts of the Apennines. Its fragile perfumes, slight minerality and its elegance make it an attractive wine and a great food wine. Many Genoese villas and mansions amid its wine landscape creates a unique ambience. Gavi town is a gem and has potential to become one of Piemonte’s most visited spots in future (one may hope that traffic through the historical centre will be eliminated. Quite odd in a place with such cultural and historical significance…). Right now Gavi is almost neglected by tourists and the term Gavishire, wishfully used by some, is still very premature. But about the touristic potential of Gavi area there should be no doubt, its particular ambience with Ligurian building style and the facades of many old palaces, showing richness of the past give the town its particular, somewhat melancholic aspect. Some good restaurants offer authentic Piemontese dishes. Best choices: restaurant Cantine del Gavi and osteria Piemontemare. Local dishes include ravioli, which probably was created by local Raviolo family from Gavi. Amaretti from Gavi are a must-try. There is an abundant choice of interesting wine companies to visit, a very imcomplete selection: La Scolca, Broglia, Fontanassa, La Ghibellina, Morgassi Superiore, La Mesma, Il Poggio di Gavi, Marchese Spinola, Villa Sparina, Nicola Bergaglio, Ghio, and many others.
Foto: landscape in the Colli Tortonesi
After the second world war the Colli Tortonesi was territory for cheap whites and reds without quality. But since 1987 when winemaker Walter Massa started to produce Timorasso the area receives more attention. Timorasso is autochtonous in the south-east but was almost forgotten. Its surface has increased from 2 to circa 70 ha and expectations are that this will rise. Timorasso is considered an outstanding white wine, it offers fine and fresh perfumes with some minerality and with age develops into some petrolly perfumes not unlike Riesling. The taste is powerful and offers complex sensations of fruit, minerals, some oil and length. It is never aged on wood even if the body of the taste would suggest so. A wine with aging potential.
The Colli Tortonesi is situated south of the town Tortona – Derthona in Roman times and many winemakers mention ‘Derthona’ on the label for their Timorasso – it might become the name of the DOC. The area also produces excellent Barbera, Dolcetto, Freisa, Croatina and Cortese. The area is very picturesque with the long and remote valleys of Grue, Ossona and Curone. The litte Ligurian village San Sebastiano Curone is a gem and hosts a wonderful truffle fair in November. The Colli Tortonesi receive few visitors so for the terminology ‘Derthonashire‘ it is definitively too early now.. Some good restaurants are Corona in San Sebastiano Curone and Malpassutti in Carbonara Scrivia. The protected DOP salame Nobile del Giarolo is among Italy´s most prestigious salamis and in the Apennines in the south the rare Montebore cheese is produced. Wine companies to visit: Vigneti Massa, Mariotto, Cascina Montagnola, Cascina I Carpini, Luigi Boveri.
Libarna is North Italy’s biggest Roman monument and is situated exactly between both territories.. (read: http://paulbalke.com/libarna-and-piemontes-isola-bianca/). This is an excellent meeting point for events dedicated to both wines, we meet two important persons: Francesco Bergaglio, director of Gavi Consorzio and Walter Massa, famous winemaker in the Colli Tortonesi. ´This is a unique opportunity to show these authentic wines to the world, both wine territories are very different but this place is the entrance to Piemonte´, says Francesco Bergaglio, director of Gavi Consorzio. The link Gavi-Derthona, a reality with two very different values and stages of development, (Tortonese at its beginning where Gavi is a consolidated value), has the potential to create a lot interest, says Walter Massa. ´A well-targeted communication can create awareness among consumers and professionals of our importance as white wine region. We can compete with the international wine regions without problems, we have a lot to offer´, says Massa. ´We are the white alternative for Barolo and Barbaresco – you have to try us to know it!´ says Bergaglio.