My most recent visit to Gaja was quite an experience, as I tasted all of the estate’s 1989s, 1990s and 2007s. The 1989s and 1990s are reviewed in this issue’s What About Now feature. Angelo Gaja, always loquacious on a wide range of subjects, says virtually nothing about his wines, an approach I have increasingly come to appreciate in an era where so many producers are constantly in pitch mode. Then again, Gaja doesn’t really need to say anything, the wines speak for themselves. I tasted the 2007s at the winery in November 2009 and then again in New York in January 2010. Both times they were spectacular. Stylistically the 2007s remind me of the 1997s in terms of their opulence. Gaja’s wines are often immensely appealing when young – which is certainly the case with the 2007s – but then close down in bottle for a number of years, sometimes many years. My impression is that the Costa Russi and Conteisa are the most likely of these 2007s to offer the widest drinking windows throughout their lives with a minimum of cellaring. Fermentation and malolactic fermentation take place in steel. The wines then spend approximately one year in French oak and a second year in cask prior to being bottled. As has been the case for a number of years now, Gaja’s Langhe wines incorporate a small percentage of Barbera. On a final note, it’s great to see Gaja’s daughters Gaia and Rossana increasingly involved in the winery. They, and their younger brother Giovanni, have big shoes to fill, but couldn’t have asked for better teachers than Angelo and Lucia Gaja.
(Antonio Galloni - Wine Advocate - Feb 2010)
About this WINE
Angelo Gaja is Italy`s most renowned and dynamic wine personality and his impact on wine production in the last 30 years cannot be overestimated.
Angelo Gaja took over the family business in 1970 and, as he says: *The challenge was to maintain the basic power and depth of Nebbiolo while polishing the wines to give them richer colour, fuller fruit, better balance and a more refined style.'
In pursuit of this aim Gaja replanted many of the vineyards, installed temperature-controlled, stainless steel tanks, introduced the concept of ageing wines in small oak barrels and began releasing single vineyard Barbarescos. Most controversial of all, Gaja planted some Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay on prime Barbaresco land.
Today Gaja has 101 hectares of vineyards divided into 32 separate plots and produces around 30,000 cases of wine a year. Gaja produces world-class wines that sell for world-class prices; his latest venture is in Tuscany where he has acquired an estate in Montalcino.
Langhe is an all-encompassing zone lying due south of Alba and the River Tanaro in the province of Cuneo. Barolo and Barbaresco both lie within its boundaries.
Langhe is also the name of a regional DOC zone, which is used to classify wines made outside of the traditional Piemontese varietal scheme (Nebbiollo, Barbera, Cortese etc). Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc wines from the region are, for example, classified as Langhe DOC.
Effectively the ‘second wine’ of Piedmont’s great Barolo and Barbarescos, the Langhe Nebbiolo DOC is the only way Langhe producers can declassify their Barolo or Barbaresco fruit or wines to make an early-drinking style.
Langhe Nebbiolo can be released onto the market as soon as practicably possible either as a fresh, fruity wine made solely in stainless-steel, or later on having been aged in oak. The Langhe Nebbiolo DOC was created in 1994 along with a plethora of other Langhe DOC wines (so diluting their significance).
Unlike Nebbiolo d’Alba, Langhe Nebbiolo can be cut with 15 percent other red indigenous varieties, such as Barbera or Dolcetto. Leading, quality producers of Barolo and Barbaresco are more inclined to use 100 percent Nebbiolo, recognising its role as a stepping stone, using the fruit from vines that are either too young or poorly situated.
Larger producers tend to use the Langhe Nebbiolo DOC as a valve, declassifying wines destined for Barolo or Barbaresco when the market is difficult. Confusingly Langhe Nebbiolo can also be the declassified wine of Nebbiolo d’Alba.
Recommended producers: Giovanni Rosso di Davide Rosso , Mario Fontana , Ferdinando Principiano
Nebbiolo is the grape behind the Barolo and Barbaresco wines and is hardly ever seen outside the confines of Piedmont. It takes its name from "nebbia" which is Italian for fog, a frequent phenomenon in the region.
A notoriously pernickety grape, it requires sheltered south-facing sites and performs best on the well-drained calcareous marls to the north and south of Alba in the DOCG zones of Barbaresco and Barolo.
Langhe Nebbiolo is effectively the ‘second wine’ of Piedmont’s great Barolo & Barbarescos. This DOC is the only way Langhe producers can declassify their Barolo or Barbaresco fruit or wines to make an early-drinking style. Unlike Nebbiolo d’Alba, Langhe Nebbiolo can be cut with 15% other red indigenous varieties, such as Barbera or Dolcetto.
Nebbiolo flowers early and ripens late, so a long hang time, producing high levels of sugar, acidity and tannins; the challenge being to harvest the fruit with these three elements ripe and in balance. The best Barolos and Barbarescos are perfumed with aromas of tar, rose, mint, chocolate, liquorice and truffles. They age brilliantly and the very best need ten years to show at their best.