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4th April 2018

Cortese - Fantasie!

The Wonderful Wines of La Scolca in Gavi

I have known the wines of La Scolca for a long time. Gavi, the great Piemontese white wine, is a staple of yachting. Presumably its seafaring connection stems from it being the most local wine for the great port city of Genoa, home not just to significant maritime activity for hundreds of years, but also the gateway today to the great yacht-building yards of Perini, Baglietto, San Lorenzo. Mondomarine and others

There is little dispute that La Scolca is the greatest and most celebrated producer of Gavi, and they are about to celebrate their 100th anniversary of ownership by the Soldati family - the proprietors to this day.

Gavi is made from the grape Cortese. Although it is also occasionally found elsewhere in Italy (Bianco di Custoza for example), it is in Gavi that Cortese reaches its greatest heights. Superficially another in the large phalanx of 'neutral' Italian white varieties which tread edgily on the toes of blandness, Cortese is in fact rather more structured and delicious than this. It offers the crisp acidity that Italian food (especially olive oil and fish dishes) so badly craves, with a weight of white-fruit and floral flavour and some ginger and root vegetable structure underneath.

Technically, the DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) is Cortese di Gavi. La Scolca was the first producer to realise the superiority of the vineyards from the heart of the commune of Gavi itself (rather as the 'Classico' subregions of Chianti and elsewhere), and their top wine has for many years been called Gavi dei Gavi. Where leaders lead, however, others follow, and a new separate DOCG was created for other producers who acknowledge this, 'Gavi di Gavi'. But that little 'e' is important - La Scolca were the first, and they remain the best.

At Prowein this year, in the company of fifth generation Chiara Soldati, I was afforded the rare privilege of being able to taste the entire range of new release vintage, and some older wines, which demonstrated just how multi-dimensional Cortese can actually be.

La Scolca Oro/Gold 2017 Gavi DOCG
Fermented with wild yeasts and spending 9 months on the yeast lees, following a cold (Cryo) maceration and cold ferment, this is Cortese at its purest. Fresh, and leafy with some crisp green plum fruit, appley acidity and hints of bread complexity. 16

Valentino La Scolca 2017 Gavi DOCG
Valentino is a cuvée made from lower yielding vineyards on the slopes. It is a little richer and more dense in consequence. Flavours of honeydew melon and white flowers abound, with a citrus freshness to the acidity. 16.5

Etichetta Bianca La Scolca 2017 Gavi DOCG
This is the baby sister of the top wine, from younger vines (although still around 20 - 30 years, which for many producers would count as 'old'). The flavours are more honeyed and delicate with baked apple fruit and chalky touches. The comparisons with Chablis begin to become apparent with the White Label La Scolca. 17

Gavi dei Gavi Etichetta Nera La Scolca 2017 Gavi DOCG
This is the classic cuvée and the one for which the property is the best known, as 'Gavi dei Gavi'. The vineyards are all in prime position, and are over sixty years old. This gives the wine a complexity of chalk and flint minerals to accompany its pear tarte-tatin fruit character and notes of white spices like ginger and even pepper. Wonderfully complex for an un-oaked white wine. 17.5

Gavi dei Gavi Etichetta Nera La Scolca 2016 Gavi DOCG<
A chance now to see what happens once this wine is given the chance to age a little in bottle. Even just an extra year, and from the superb 2016 vintage, this has begun to acquire the golden apple, cinnamon and hazelnut notes which age can lend to Cortese. The pear and fresh green apple fruit is still there, but this is a white wine which could really accompany lighter meat dishes like pork, veal and poultry. Delicious. 17.5

Gavi dei Gavi Riserva d'Antan La Scolca 2006 Gavi DOCG
Who says Cortese does not age?!? This wine, at over a decade old shows what can happen if good Gavi is given the chance to age. Released occasionally, but still for a super-competitive price (around €60), it develops, rather as Semillon from the Hunter Valley seems to, notes of spice, nuts, caramel, and vanilla that are very suggestive of having seen oak, even though the wine never did. Surely a wine for nutty aged cheeses like Beaufort, Comté and Gruyère. Well worth seeking out. 18



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