The 17-acre property of Picollo Ernesto is perched among the rolling hills that surround the town of Gavi. The climate here is much more mediterranean than in the north, benefiting from the constant maritime breezes, unique to the southern Piedmont. Picollo Ernesto’s vineyards sit near 260 meters above sea level in Rovereto di Gavi, the most prestigious area of the appellation. Their nine hectares of vineyards are planted exclusively with Cortese, a hearty, high acid white varietal, perfectly suited for this area in northern Italy. Cortese thrives in difficult soil, dry climate, and full sun exposure, which Rovereto amply provides. Piccolo’s vineyards are predominantly south-facing and the soils have a higher concentration of clay than marl, which allows for year-round water conservation, even in the peak of summer. Lorenzo Picollo founded the winery in 1945. The winemaking and day-to-day management was transferred to his son, Ernesto, and is now in the hands of his grandson, Gianlorenzo. Innovating along the way, Gianlorenzo continues to carry the family’s legacy forward with great success. Their land is predominantly in the Rovereto zone, though their newest purchase of two hectares lies within the zone of Tassarolo. The grapes for all of Picollo’s wines are hand harvested. The winery itself has recently been modernized but the processes remain traditional, with sparing intervention in the winemaking and no artificial pesticides or herbicides used in the vineyards. With the intent of showcasing their Cortese in its purest form, Gianlorenzo is careful to keep barrel fermentation and malolactic fermentation to a minimum. The Gavi’s are fermented and aged exclusively in stainless steel.
Gianlorenzo and I met around 2010 at his winery. I was there with a group of customers to see the vineyards for the first time after just starting to work with the winery through a relationship I'd developed with a restaurateur in Telluride, CO. I'll never forget this lunch because we got into an argument with the restaurant owner over a panna cotta. The literal definition of this classic Italian dessert is "cooked cream" so when asking how the owner was able to make such a light, delicious dessert I was a little surprised to hear him say he didn't have to cook the cream. Instead he attributed the perfect "Panna" to the eggs from his hens. I think I asked him questions for 20 minutes about how the diet of his hens led to not having to cook panna cotta ... and there may have been a lot of grappa involved after lunch and coffee. I've loved seeing and hearing from Gianlorenzo and his family ever since. About two years later I was at the winery and they were talking about their new gravity fed process to limit the use of oxygen when pumping from the tanks to the press and back. I was excited to see the improvements made at the winery, but was a bit surprised when they showed me they'd backfilled dirt up against the winery so they could drive their tractor on the roof and drop the grapes in a hole that led directly down into the tanks. I loved the improvement and inexpensive innovation, and it ended up making a world of difference in the freshness we now see year over year in these great white wines.
Traditional without herbicides
Clay and rich marl