Azienda Stefano Massone and Gavi DOCG, the great white wine of Piedmont
Some background information
Gavi is a small town and a municipality within the province of Alessandria. It is the centre of the production area of Gavi DOCG. The appellation includes approximately 1,450 hectares in 11 municipalities: Bosio, Capriata d’Orba, Carrosio, Francavilla Bisio, Gavi, Novi Ligure, Parodi Ligure, Pasturana, San Cristoforo, Serravalle Scrivia and Tassarolo. The production area of Gavi is located in the south-west tip of Piedmont and it borders with Liguria.
Gavi DOCG is produced exclusively with grapes of the “Cortese” variety and, due to its tradition and to its excellent quality, it can be considered the white counterpart of Barolo DOCG. Furthermore, also the appellation of Barolo includes 11 municipalities. Another similarity is that in both appellations the municipality where the vineyards stand can be mentioned on the label (for example “Gavi del Comune di Gavi” or “Gavi di Gavi”). This has been allowed for 20 years by the Gavi production regulation while it is more recent for the Barolo production regulation.
Gavi was awarded the DOC status in 1974 and the DOCG status in 1998.
The production area is influenced by the sea breezes from Liguria and by the snow of the Appennines which make the climate remarkable. The winters are cold and the summers are hot and ventilated. All this together with the altitude, the exposure, the marly, calcareous and clayey soils and the geological characteristics concurs in making this white wine extremely elegant.
Gavi wine has been made since the medieval times, the first document that mentions it dates back to 972. For centuries the noble and rich families from Genova had properties in this area and used to produce wine.
The Cortese grape variety has always been grown in this part of Piedmont and it can be considered autochthonous. After phylloxera ravaged the vineyards at the end of the 1800s, Cortese was widely used to replant them.
The hard work and dedication of the producers of this area contributed in making Gavi one of the top Italian white wines.
Stefano Massone is a “vigneron” through and through. He inherited the estate from his father, who also was a viticulturist and a wine producer. Stefano’s father wanted his son to study agriculture at the University of Piacenza, but Stefano, when he was young, had two aims: to study engineering and to drive a tractor. He used to work in the vineyards and in the cellar since he was 10 years old. Unfortunately Stefano’s father passed away in the mid 1970’s so that Stefano had to abandon his studies and return home to manage the family’s property. At the time mainly red wines were made at the estate, Dolcetto and Barbera that were sold in demijohns in Genova (the market required mostly red wines then). Consequently the vineyards were planted with Dolcetto, Barbera and some Cortese. But Stefano firmly believed in the potential of the Cortese grape and of the Gavi wine so that he gradually purchased vineyards planted with Cortese. The present vineyard extension is now 50 hectares planted exclusively with Cortese grapes.
Marco de Grazia met Stefano and tasted his wines in the 1980s and Marc de Grazia Selections has represented this estate ever since.
Stefano Massone is the owner and the agronomist of the estate. Cristian Pomo is the oenologist and he is responsible for the whole production process.
Gianluca Usai is responsible for the marketing issues. Gianluca is an environmental engineer. He has always had a great passion for wine thanks to his grandfather who is a viticulturist in Sardegna.
The vineyards and the type of viticulture
In the area of Gavi there are two different kinds of soils: white soils the composition of which is calcareous marl with sand and red soils the composition of which is calcareous clay rich in iron and gravel. The vineyards of the estate stand on both types of soils.
Stefano Massone decided to make wine from 15 vineyards located in six municipalities within the Gavi DOCG appellation in order to ensure high quality wines every vintage, as the climate in Piedmont can be difficult. In fact the vineyards have been chosen with care with different characteristics and with different ripening times.
As mentioned before, the total vineyard extension is 50 hectares, the altitude is 250-350 meters above sea level, the vine training sytem is guyot and the vineyard density is approximately 4,000 vines/hectare.
There is great attention to the environment: spontaneous cover crops are left on every second aisle. This is essential as, due to the type of soil, it would be impossible otherwise to work in the vineyards after it rains (without the grass there would be a lot of mud). In dry vintages the grass is mowed to avoid competition (for water) with the vines. The agricultural practices are sustainable/integrated and sulphur and copper base products are mainly sprayed.
At harvest the grapes are picked, placed in small carts and immediately taken to the cellar.
The cellar is very modern. All the vats are made with stainless steel and they are equipped with temperature control. There are two pneumatic presses, a cooling system and a bottling plant.
The wines and the vinification
The total average production is 150,000 bottles/year. Only a part of the wine is bottled, the rest is sold in bulk.
Three Gavi DOCG are bottled: Gavi DOCG Masera (120,000 bottles/year), Gavi DOCG San Cristoforo (10,000 bottles/year) and Gavi DOCG Camporosso (20,000 bottles/year).
The vineyards from which Gavi DOCG Masera and Gavi DOCG San Cristoforo are made stand on white soil while the vineyards from which Gavi DOCG Camporosso is made stand on red soil.
The wines are not bottled from a single cru: in fact Gavi DOCG Masera is made from the grapes of 15 vineyards standing in 6 municipalities within the Gavi DOCG appellation; Gavi DOCG del Comune di Gavi San Cristoforo is made from a selection over 10 hectares of vineyards all standing within the municipalities of Gavi and Gavi DOCG Camporosso is made from a selection over 12 hectares of vineyards standing within the minicipality of Francavilla Bisio.
After soft pressing, the must is immediately separated from the skins. Static decanting of the must at a cool temperature is carried out followed by fermentation at 16-18 degrees Celsius. Gavi DOCG Masera and Gavi DOCG Camporosso mature on the lees for 2-3 months while Gavi DOCG San Cristoforo matures on the lees longer, for at least 5 months. After cold stabilization the wines are bottled in springtime.
Yeast selected from the grapes of the estate’s vineyards is used for the fermentation.
Every year Stefano Massone makes investments in the vineyards and in the cellar to improve the quality of the wines. His philosophy is to enhance the characteristics of the Cortese grapes with the aim of offering very drinkable and high quality Gavi DOCG to his customers.