We've sold three cases of this one over the course of the last month which is pretty good for this little store. While you expect to sell more whites in summer the return business on Sparina is what informs us that this one is for real. Gavis have historically been called the finest white wine of Italy and Sparina is at the very least evidence of the assertion and it may, in fact, be the best we've ever tasted.
The grape here is Cortese and it is native to Piedmont, the finest wine production region of Italy. Gavi is the town in Piedmont the wine is named after. First mentioned in wine industry documents in 1659, Cortese performs best in the southeastern quarter of Piedmont where it is sandwiched between the Alps to the north and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. It is actually separated from the Mediterranean by the thin Liguria appellation but you get the idea. Its proximity to the seafood there may be the grape's reason for being there.
Villa Sparina was established within the municipality of Gavi by the Moccagatta family in the 1970's but some of its vines date to the 1940's. It is a 100 hectare (247 acre) estate with sixty acres in vines. The vineyards lie at an approximate 900 foot elevation with south/southwest exposure. The soil is largely marl and clay.
Wine from the Cortese grape is almost always a bright yellow color, medium bodied with moderate to high acidity and light crisp flavors like apple, peach, honeydew, citrus, mown grass, minerality and almonds. Cortese is also planted in Lombardy and other locales in northern Italy and its flavor profile reflects its environs. The grape is also known for its delicate bouquet which remains aromatic to the finish. In the case of Villa Sparina the bouquet shows dried pineapple and peach, pomelo, lemon thyme, and white flowers.
What else makes Sparina special? The grapes are hand harvested from their guyot-trained (cold climate) grape vines, put through a soft crush, and fermented for three weeks in sixty-five degree temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. Then to tame the acidity the young wine goes through a partial malolactic fermentation to make it a little creamy and that may be the key to its popularity.
Please join us at the store on Thursday after 5pm when Ted Fields offers us a tasting from his fine Italian portfolio. Expect a fresh wheel of Piave Vecchio to be on the cheese table for this one!