I have had very (very) little exposure to Italian wines, other than what I’ve read on this board. I’m attending a wine dinner later this week where some recent vintages of Gaja will be poured. Not sure of the exact lineup at this point.
I’ve not had any exposure to Gaja previously, and a lot of the notes I’ve found on this board are for older, mature wines. What can you tell me about current production - and in particular where they fall on the spectrum of traditional/modern? Thanks.
From the beginning, Gaja upset traditions, planting cabernet and chardonnay in Barbaresco, using new oak barriques and blending barbera with nebbiolo so his wines could not be labeled as Barbaresco. The Wikipedia entry has a lot of info.
Gaja is very interesting, because they break a lot of rules, especially the rules of the traditionalists. And yet the wines speak to grape, vineyard and vintage - and age magnificently - in ways that I think can only be described as traditional.
I haven’t opened a lot of post-2000 Gajas (because Nebbiolo+age=magic for me) but the examples from the 70s-90s have been stellar, clean and highly traditional. In my book Gaja leans traditional, but truly defies labels. If you can find a few bottles, try them and decide for yourself.
15 years ago or more, Valentino Restaurant hosted a Gaja dinner that included many of the greatest Gaja hits, including the historically great 1961 Gaja Barbaresco, which was made by Angelo’s father and raised by Angelo. The highlight of the dinner was Angelo’s speech, in which he railed against modern winemaking in Piemonte…
Many people consider Gaja a modernist because of their actions described by John and their overall use of barriques in the winemaking. However, they were modernists only when they departed from the traditional style which was 100% old, huge botti casks and everything else was heresy.
Their red wines see normally weeks of maceration and they are aged partly in barriques and partly in bottis for a year before they are blended together and aged in bottis until bottling. Furthermore, only a relatively small part of the barriques is renewed every year. This means that compared to the true modernists (i.e. short but aggressive maceration regimes, aging in 100% new barriques), Gaja is actually pretty much on the lean traditional style. They just introduced the modernist style to the region and other producer went over-the-top with these methods.
I heard Gaia was coming back to town. Papa certainly taught her promotion well even if her presentation is a bit dry and stoic. I know the Cru Barbaresco is considered some of the best available and no one would label it modern, but I find the wines on the “low” end of the portfolio to be ridiculously priced for what they are. Not a fan of the Tuscan wines and don’t like the blending practices. But if you like a cuvée of Chardonnay and Viognier (which is actually quite tasty) you will probably enjoy the experience.
Gaja was my introduction to Piedmont back in the 90’s. They were excellent wines, but they were very “international” in style. My lone experience with post 2000 vintages was the 2005 Sori Tildin, which had noticeable but well integrated oak. It will mature into a really beautiful wine some day, but at $500/bottle, I’d rather have two bottles of Giacosa or Roagna, or better yet, a case of Produttori Riservas.
Like Michael, I’m not a fan of the Tuscan stuff. Completely unremarkable wines with huge markups because of the Gaja name.
I attended a Zachys instore Piedmont tasting at the end of January and got the opportunity to taste through the below lineup of current release Gaja’s while also getting the chance to talk to Giovanni Gaja about the wines. As far as style goes, the grapes are mascerated much like any of the traditionalists but the wine is subsequently aged in small French baroque’s which is decidedly modern. Regardless of where they fall in the spectrum for you, the wines are delicious, insanely well made and true, and unfortunately now, even more insanely priced than ever before.
Gaia was in Denver last night at an event with Jeb Dunnuck. So she’s in the US. She is as good a spokesperson for her winery and region as her father was.
All the single-vineyard wines had 5-8% Barbera in them from 1996 to 2012, but in 2013 and beyond they are all 100% Nebbiolo. The wines are always beautiful and polished, and a great pleasure to drink. The aim is for elegance and subtly (which imo the Barbera did not help). The 2013 Barbaresco is a gorgeous wine.
Gaja strikes me kind of like Didier Dagueneau - a producer that is just making insanely good wine which completely transcends the “traditional = good and modern = bad” binary view that WB has mostly adopted.
Sometimes, great = great, and it doesn’t matter how you categorize it, or if it’s even possible to categorize it in the conventional ways.
The only thing I’ve ever had against Gaja’s wines (besides price) is their level of polish, since I like rough edges in my Italian wine. That said, I attended a short retrospective tasting back in 2013 for is Ca’Marcanda ‘Camarcanda’ bordeaux blend, and his exceptional charisma and passion (and salesmanship) was the most memorable part of the event. Like a vinous Mussolini.
I’d agree with this sentiment, well said in my opinion. I would agree that current release prices may be a bit hard to stomach, but seek older. They are just tremendous wines. The Gaja wines of the 60s and 70s are some of my all time favorite wines. The 89s and 97s are outrageously good.