This vineyard really needs no introduction however for those Frenchophiles, looking to branch beyond l’Hexagone, these wines are exactly the conviction you need to take the step. The original proponent of Barbaresco, Gaja has significantly altered the course of Italian wine. This winery is blessed in being steeped in tradition and history, currently on its 5th generation of winemakers.
In 1859, in the small town on Barbaresco in the Langhe region of Piemonte, Giovanni Gaja converted the then family tavern into a winery. In the beginning the family had just 2ha of vineyards. But before long they were bottling wines to be sent to the Italian troops in Abyssinia. Today, Gaja receives the same admiration and praise as its Bourgogne counterparts.
Following WWII, Giovanni set about acquiring important plots of the now “Barbaresco DOC” zone. As a result of these astute purchases, the Gaja family now own 81ha of the DOC- significantly more than any of its competitors. He was joined with the help of his wife Clotilda Rey who, having been educated in Savoie, put emphasis on the importance of quality and branding.
The Gaja name has, since then, been synonymous with innovation throughout the wine world. Angelo Gaja is credited with beginning the practice of using barriques in the vinification process, first in 1975 in order to soften the tannins of the Nebbiolo grape. Undoubtedly his extensive travelling across the world, as well as his training at Montpellier and Alba, had a huge effect on his winemaking practices. Angelo also introduced international grape varieties such as Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon to the vineyards, something which incited huge, and eventually unfounded, skepticism.
The three most significant crus of the winery were introduced by Angelo in the 70’s and 80’s- Sori San Lorenzo (1967), Sori Tildin (1970) and Costa Russi (1978). Each is a single-vineyard Barbaresco. Gaia Gaja now heads up the estate in Piemonte, while her sister Rossana works with the family’s holdings in Tuscany, and we can be confident in expecting many more exciting things from this family for years to come.
– Lucy Kelly