Last year, during a visit to Beaufort, S.C., a friend introduced me to his new favorite warm weather wine, Gavi, an Italian white wine from the Piedmont region.
There’s nothing new about this crisp, dry wine — it’s been around since at least 1659 — but, it was unknown to both of us. I’m not sure what his excuse was, but I’m still learning Italian wines. After all, there are more than 500 documented wine varietals in the country, and I haven’t been able to make the time to get around to all of them, Gavi included.
I’m not sure how long Principessa Gavia has been widely available in the United States, but it’s likely been here since it was first released in 1995, and now that I’m familiar with it, I seem to be able to find it relatively easily in the Pioneer Valley.
It makes sense that the wine is available in the United States, since it’s produced by Banfi Vintners, a New York-based, family-owned company. Around 1980, the company’s owners, John and Harry Mariani, acquired the single vineyard that is dedicated to growing the Cortese grapes that they use to produce the still wine Principessa Gavia, and Principessa Perlante, a lightly frizzante version that’s not as easy to find. Both wines are 100 percent Cortese.
There’s a terribly romantic legend on the back label of the Principessa Gavia bottle about a young princess, Gavia, who falls in love with one of her father’s guards and wants to marry him. Of course, her father, Clodimir, King of the Franks, a group of Germanic rowdies in the Rhine area, is a real stick in the mud and refuses to let his daughter marry below her station.
So, as couples are wont to do in these tales, they run off and hide out in a sleepy village on the other side of the Alps. After months of eluding the king’s troops, the groom gets drunk after enjoying copious amounts of the delightful local white wine and confides their story to the sympathetic innkeeper. After the groom stumbles off to bed, the innkeeper, of course, rats him out to the king and gets a big reward, and the bride and groom, who by now has a splitting headache, are dragged back to the king’s house to face their punishment.
Well, by this time, their romantic story is all over the kingdom, and Alamasunta, Queen of the Goths, as well as Pope St. Hermistas, get involved and intercede on the couple’s behalf. The king is becoming a little weak-kneed from all the excitement, particularly when he looks into his daughter’s eyes. He forgives them and blesses the marriage. He also gives them the town where they sought refuge as a wedding present, although he changes the names of the town and the wine to Gavi. The bridegroom, who has sworn off drinking, which is probably a good thing, and the bride, Gavia, who is experiencing a small identity crisis, live happily ever after in Gavi.
The legend aside, the wine is remarkably refreshing with lots of fresh lemon and citrus flavors. The winemaker notes that it is an excellent aperitif with hors d’oeuvres and goes well with seafood and poultry. I had a glass the other night with a grilled grass-fed burger, and the wine was a fine match.
Principessa Gavia also has moved up my list to become my new favorite warm weather wine. It’s an excellent bargain at $13, but when it also goes on sale, it’s a steal.•
Suggestions for wines in the $10 range are always appreciated.
Warren Johnston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.