Having visited some of the best producers that Barolo & Barbaresco had to offer over the previous two days our final stop in Piemonte was an appointment at arguably the most prestigious and celebrated address in Italy; the great Angelo Gaja.
Having successfully negotiated an unexpectedly large plate of foie gras over lunch in Nieve without requiring a defibrillator, we arrived at Gaja’s headquarters in Barbaresco for a meeting with Angelo’s youngest daughter, the attractive and articulate Gaia Gaja, who represents the fifth generation of involvement here. A brief visit to the cellars met our high expectations of an artisanal winery that retains tradition from previous generations whilst embracing the most modern and progressive winemaking techniques.
The eagerly anticipated tasting consisted of eight of Gaja’s latest releases and possibly the finest expressions of the Nebbiolo grape from anywhere across the communes of Barbaresco and Barolo. The Barbaresco 2008 DOCG from 14 different vineyards around the village displayed rich, dense flavours, infinite finesse but a surprisingly velvety, elegant finish, a regularly occurring theme in 2008. This was followed by the three single vineyards, Costa Russi 2008- structured and more defined yet retaining exquisite balance and freshness on the finish, the “˜to die for’ Sori Tilden 2008- more exotic and concentrated in style due its warmer location near the top of the hill and the Sori San Lorenzo 2008- the more structured of the three, very pure and mineral driven with dark cherry, plum & spice flavours. All three wines very different in style, each reflecting its own unique location and exposure.
And then to Barolo: three classic Nebbiolos. The 2007 Conteisa from the Cerequio vineyard, which showed a more harmonious style alongside floral, balsamic and dark plum flavours, the Sperss 2007 & 1999 both of which revealed all the hallmarks of the more clay rich Serralunga D’Alba soils- the 2007, structured, muscular and concentrated and in need of significant time in the bottle to reveal its undisputed potential- the 1999 displaying more developed flavours on the palate such as wild mushroom, coffee & spice. We finished with the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon known as “˜Darmagi’, literally translated as “˜what a pity!’, a comment uttered by Angelo’s father as he watched his son convert the vineyard from indigenous varieties to Cabernet Sauvignon! However this is a successful transition and the wine, if a touch youthful, was quite superb, with red apple, liquorice and violet on the palate balanced by rich softness.
The lasting impression of Gaja is one of sublime attention to detail, incredible consistency at the highest level and wines that quite simply nudge perfection. This was a truly memorable visit.