As a wine writer and wine lover, I attend a variety of events and get to try a number of wines from all over the world. Here I review the wine related events I attended and the things that thrilled me about them. More wine related articles by me can be found at www.ontariowinereview.com
Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Report from … Meeting Angelo Gaja and Tasting his wines – October 15, 2012
When you meet an icon winemaker like
Angelo Gaja you expect him to want to talk about his wines, their
makeup, his vineyards … but instead we were treated to an hour long
dissertation about what he has seen in his life and his 51 years in the
wine business, from communism to Robert Mondavi, from artisanal
winemaking to Bernie Madoff and many more topics in-between – Angelo
seem to bring them all together with wit, humour, and interesting
insight into his, and this, world of wine making and beyond … all-in-all
it was an enjoyable hour that kept your ears on their toes (if that is
even possible) – and asking yourself “where is he going with this?” But
sooner or later, as the old saying goes, “the train came back to the
When it was over we got to try 6 Gaja wines while Angelo stood by to answer any questions we might have.
Highlights of Angelo’s Talk …
- He is 72 years old and has spent 51 years in the wine business.
- Gaja is a Spanish name but the winery is located in Italy’s Piedmont region.
- The winery was started by his grandfather in 1859.
- Communism and deregulation: neither system works for wine production because extremes stymie creativity
Spoke highly of Robert Mondavi as being the most important wine man in
the last 45 years: Mondavi showed that volume AND high quality was
possible. He named things by varietal, created different levels of
quality and, most importantly, he introduced wine tourism in Oakville,
California (1966) – this idea found its way to Europe.
Gaja and Mondavi once spoke about a partnership, but Angelo was worried
his company was too small: “It was like an elephant having sex with a
mosquito, no pleasure for the elephant and dangerous for the mosquito.”
1.5 years later Mondavi partnered with Frescobaldi and created LUCE.
Comparing the grapes of Piedmont versus International or more
specifically California: Nebbiolo has been planted in Piedmont for 800+
years, and it is not a common tasting wine, it will never reach the
popularity of Cabernet or Merlot, but it does appeal to adventurous wine
- He derided the
manipulation of wine in particular opulence in Cabernet Sauvignon and
the search for the “perfect wine” and the manipulation to create such a
beast. Elegance does not need perfection.
Climate Change: the first hot vintage was in 1997 which was loved by
US writers, but it was the first sign it was afoot … downside: parasites
are being introduced, grass is changing and old knowledge has to be
integrated with the new reality.
- Sees a trend of people moving back to an agricultural based lifestyle.
- He has a gentleman’s agreement with his children: they will not force him to retire and he will not fire them.
The six wines tasted
The Wines …
famous two tone label (black and white) was finally demystified: black
represents the past, you can’t re-write the past or write new stuff upon
it. The white is the future, a clean slate to be written upon:
“Excellence in wine takes courage, vision and dedication.” – Angelo Gaja
6 wines were tried. 4 of the wine were rated (4+) stars including:
2007 Pieve S. Restituta ‘Sugarille’, Brunello di Montalcino –
Tuscany (100% Sangiovese) - $159.95 … nose is pencil shavings with
cherry and white pepper, while the palate doles out cherry, herbal
intensity and great acidity. (**** ½)
2005 Gaja ‘Sperss’
– Piedmont (94% Nebbiolo, 6% Barbera) – N/A … this vineyard is a
nostalgic one for Angelo’s father and finally was purchased by the Gaja
family., The nose is plum, cherry with a touch of herbs and spices.
Palet is elegant and earthy with big acidity, bing cherry, black and
white pepper with great spiciness. (**** ½)