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Stefano Massone Gavi Masera 2016
Stefano Massone is devoted solely to white winemaking, with vineyards located in the warmer southeastern part of the region in Gavi, where the Cortese grape achieves maximum ripeness. As this varietal tends to be very productive, rigorous vineyard management and low yields are vital to producing Cortese of high quality, as practiced at Massone but at few other estates. Some even compare fine Gavi to white Burgundy, citing the mineral character of the wines.
Among Piedmont’s most historical and respected white wine producing zones, Gavi—also known as Gavi di Gavi and Cortese di Gavi—comes from Piedmont's southeast, in the province of Alessandria. Gavi is the main town of the area; Cortese is the grape. Cortese for Gavi is grown in any of 11 communes in the area where the soils are abundant in chalky, white, limestone-rich clay. The best Gavi from these locations are delicately floral, with stone fruit and citurs characters and a crisp, mineral-laden finish.
While typically made in a fresh and unoaked style, by law Gavi can come in many forms: frizzante, spumante, metodo classico and méthode ancestrale. But most producers maintain a conventional winemaking practice of temperature-controlled fermentation in stainless steel and make fresh, still whites. However, there are several barrique-aged examples, which can be interesting. The biodynamic wines of Gavi, fermented with ambient yeasts can be the most expressive.
Cortese’s territory was once part of the city-state of Genoa, and still the grape practically owes more allegiance to Liguria than the region that grows it: Piedmont. At the far southeastern corner of Piedmont, in the province of Alessandria, Cortese was first recorded in the early 17th century and has no known relatives. It is most highly regarded in this location today, know as Gavi. Because of its freshness and chalky minerality, this white wine commonly populates the fish restaurants’ wine lists of the Ligurian coast. Cortese grows well in other parts of Piedmont: Cortese dell’Alto Monferrato a few miles west and just over a few hills to the east, in the Colli Tortonesi. But there Cortese doesn’t always achieve the ripeness, or get the winemaking proficiency that it does when grown on the limestone-rich soils of Gavi. While some renowned Barolo producers produce stellar Gavi, such as Michele Chiarlo and Pio Cesare, the region has no shortage of its own dedicated producers.