Cortese has long been grown in the North West of Italy. In Piedmont it achieved fame during the 1960s in the village of Gavi, where it made elegant, mineral wines with structure and an affinity to food. Like with many Italian white varieties, the commercial culture of 1980s saw yields rise and quality drop.
Today Cortese is still capable of making brilliant wines, most notably in Gavi. There is no shortage of top producers crafting fine, boutique mono varietal expressions of the grape. Sadly, there are still plenty of disappointing examples also. The best advice is to stick to top producers. Those wines hailing from Gavi’s classified ‘cru’ sub zone of Rovereto are also a trustworthy marker of quality.
There are few serious wine collectors clamouring to stockpile Gavi. Why would they? The Cortese grape is known for its simple, drink-early freshness, not for its ability to mature and certainly not for its capacity to deliver complex wines that merit being hidden away in the cellar for years. Ask around the wine world and you’d be hard pressed to find someone prepared to put Gavi in their list of age worthy whites. Sure, they’ll enjoy a glass or two as an aperitif, but momentous wine it is not.