In September, its clusters flood with light the hills of Piedmont south of Alessandria, from Ovada to the Hills of Tortona, in the province of Asti on the right bank of the Tanaro and Cuneo, and in the lower Belbo Valley.
Cortese is an autochthonous grape variety, one of the types of wine provided for by the Piemonte DOC denomination: also known by the dialectal terms of Corteis, Courteis and Courteisa, it prefers soil rich in clayey sediments which, in their alternating between “white soils” and “red soils”, enhance the fruity flavours of the grapes.
The first accurate historical documentation about Cortese appeared in 1614 in the inventory of the cellar of the castle of Casale Monferrato, and in 1659 it was mentioned in the correspondence between the castle of Montaldeo and Marchioness Doria. We certainly know that it was a court wine of the Genoese nobility, which encouraged its specialised cultivation, favoured also by its beneficial proximity to the Ligurian Sea.
Widely grown in Piedmont throughout the 19th century, Cortese went through a period of neglect caused by the destructive effects of the phylloxera insect, then to be rediscovered and begin a new development in the fifties by the writer, journalist and director Mario Soldati in the area of Gavi.
«A green, relaxing, sweet intersection: this is how I live the hills of Gavi... And the soils: sometimes white, sometimes red, in a composite mosaic of complexity transferred by skilled hands into the glasses of those who curiously wanted to know the real protagonist of all this: Cortese»: Soldati wrote.
High sugar levels, high acidity and low alcohol content; straw-yellow colour with greenish hues; delicate, pleasant and persistent scent; flavour: fresh, dry, pleasant: Cortese expresses itself in smooth and delicately scented wines, which differ according to the area of cultivation, such as Gavi or Cortese di Gavi DOCG (100%), Colli Tortonesi Cortese DOC, Cortese dell'Alto Monferrato DOC, Piemonte Cortese DOC, Monferrato Casalese Cortese DOC.
The “Marengo” version also stands out among the vine varieties, newly introduced in the Piemonte Doc Cortese specification, which identifies sparkling or semi-sparkling wines obtained from Cortese grapes grown in the area of the famous battle of Marengo, which took place in 1800 opposing Napoleon Bonaparte’s French troops to the Austrian ones. It is a large area that extends in southern Piedmont, located between the provinces of Asti, Alessandria and Cuneo.
Excellent as an aperitif, Cortese can be paired with hot or cold vegetable appetizers, fish dishes or sushi, light and elegant first courses such as risotto and is suitable to accompany soft non-spicy cheeses.