2017 Gaja Barbaresco Magnum
Bright, intense, lifted, ripe berry nose. Bold vanilla spice with a hint of leather. Deep, rich, cherry liqueur palate with balsamic notes, grippy but soft tannins, high alcohol but well balanced by fruit power. Long finish. 14.5% abv.
Notes from Decater: Roberson wine merchant's vertical tasting of 10 Gaja Barbarescos was, as expected, a sell out; the wines ranging in age from 2006 back to a rare 1958 made by Angelo Gaja's father Giovanni.
The Gaja family emigrated to Piedmont from Spain in the 1600s and the first Giovanni Gaja started the winery in 1859. Despite having eight children, only one, Angelo, was deemed suitable to take over the family business – the other seven had excessive drinking and gambling problems.
Angelo’s French wife, Clotilde Rey, encouraged him to buy only the best vineyard sites in Barbaresco and the company’s fame grew steadily since, particularly through their son Giovanni.
Giovanni’s son Angelo (whose son is called Giovanni, following the family tradition) took over in 1961 and has forged the biggest changes in the appellation while taking the Gaja name from a local leader to a global star.
He was the first to reduce yields, personally choose wood for his barriques (not the traditional foudres), make single-vineyard cuvées and plant international varietals. But most famously, he removed the Barbaresco DOCG name from his top bottlings so he could add 5% of Barbera to the blend, thereby declassifying his best wines to mere Langhe Nebbiolo.
The favourite wine of the evening was the 1961, narrowly edging out the 1974, followed by the 1978. Votes were also cast for the 1958, 1988 and 2006.