Tasted: Gaja 64, 78, 89, 97, 00, 04

barbaresco

Above: An enviable flight, if I do say so myself. The 64 was simply stunning and the 89 gorgeous.

As a good friend and admired colleague of mine says, “whether you like the wines or not, tasting Gaja is always an interesting experience.”

Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to attend an impressive tasting with Gaia Gaja, who was also in Chicago (it was a trade tasting organized by her importer and I managed to snag a spot, the fly on the wall, so to speak).

I’ve actually tasted quite a bit of Gaja recently: the Barbera 7 and I visited Gaja while were in Piedmont in March (Fredric recently published his account of our visit over at Palate Press.)

barbaresco

Above: It was remarkable to see the evolution of the Gaja brand, the labels, and the transformation of bottle shape. From a classic Albese interpretation of the Burgundian bottle shape to a Burgundian bottle with a Bordeaux neck to accommodate a longer cork. Note also the slight changes in color and composition of the labels.

I’m writing in a hurry today because traveling and will write more on what I learned about Gaja the brand and my visit with Gaia the lady in future. And I think that some of you will be surprised by what I learned. I know I was surprised.

In the meantime, here are some quick tasting and winemaking notes.

Barbaresco 1964

“Longer fermentation and maceration” during this period in the winery’s history. Two to three weeks maceration and some slight oxidation because of winemaking practices at the time that gave the wine an orange hint early on. The winery had not implemented its current vineyard management (green harvest and “short pruning”) and the grapes were picked all at once, resulting in some of the fruit not being entirely ripe.

Drinking old Nebbiolo is not for everyone and so some might have disagreed with my take on the wine but I was completely blown away by how good and how alive this wine (older than me) was. Gorgeous brick and orange color, unbelievably seductive tar and earth on the nose, solid acidity and gentle, noble red fruit in the mouth. The mouthfeel of the wine was truly divine.

1978 Barbaresco

The last year with the short cork and the first year that Gaja began to age in barrique The winery had also begun to employ a green harvest at this point, although not “systematically” at this early stage. I’d actually tasted this wine before, a few years ago in NYC: I think this bottle might have been “off,” because it didn’t show as well as I had expected. It had a strong, menthol and Eucalyptus nose and it took a while for the fruit to emerge after I revisited it during the hour or so we spent tasted (the wines had been opened a few hours before the tasting but not decanted). It was almost Baroloesque in its power and showed some spicy notes in the mouth.

Barbaresco 1989

This wine was pure beauty. Great (in my opinion one of the top 3 of my lifetime) vintage, classic and balanced, with “four seasons,” so to speak. Incredible bottle of wine, showing beautifully, and with many, many more years ahead of it. This was one of Italy’s great producers at its best. An incredible elegant lightness and beauty and simultaneous power and tannic structure — the seemingly contradictory essence of Barbaresco, an experience that always brings equine metaphors to mind. Gaia told a great story about this wine. At the end of a school year spent abroad to learn English and studying acting (!) among other interests in San Francisco, she tasted this wine in 2004 at a family friend’s dinner party. “I could smell the perfume of my house in this wine,” she said and so she decided, after all, to return home and rejoin her family’s business. A truly life-changing wine, in her case.

Barbaresco 1997

I wasn’t expecting to like this vintage but was really impressed by its drinkability and its balance. “The heat of the vintage shows” but the wine is drinking fantastically well at this moment. It has begun to attain that orange hue of old Nebbiolo and I won’t conceal that I didn’t spit this wine. I thought it showed beautifully. Of all the wines we tasted, this would have been the one I would have most liked to have enjoyed at dinner (while the 89 and 64, my favorites, would have been special occasion wines, meditation wines). Drink it now if you got it.

Barbaresco 2000

This wine is going through a very closed phase of its evolution, very tannic and very tight as we say in our parlance. Like 1997, this was a very warm vintage and I was actually surprised by how reluctant the wine was to reveal its fruit. I really wish I would have had more time with this wine but the time constraints of this tasting (a trade tasting) didn’t allow me to revisit it.

Barbaresco 2004

I’ve tasted this wine on numerous occasions and you’d be surprised by the name of at least one wine writer who revealed very publicly that he enjoyed this wine in a blind tasting. The wine is still very young and very tannic but you can easily imagine the balance that it is going to reveal with aging. As we look back at 2004 with a few years distance, it’s becoming clearer and clearer that the vintage is very similar to 1989, very balanced, very classic, and with extreme promise. If I could afford to buy Gaja, this is the wine I’d put in my cellar for long-term aging. A good bet if you’re the betting type.

barbaresco

Above: Gaia and I had a charbroiled cheddardog at Wieners Circle.

After I told Gaia and another a colleague about my adventure at the Wiener Circle (where the proprietors famously berate their customers), our colleague mentioned that Robert Parker had listed it one year as one of his “top ten meals” of the year, she expressed her desire to taste a Chicago red hot.

Impossible wine pairing? Gaja and Chicago red hot? I don’t think I’m gonna touch that one!

barbaresco

Thanks again, Gaia, for inviting me to such an incredible tasting! And thanks for the cheddardog!

13 Responses to Tasted: Gaja 64, 78, 89, 97, 00, 04

  1. Alfonso says:

    no matter how she tackles it, Gaia Gaja is not an underdog. Great post, Dr. P!

  2. adrian says:

    I love seeing the elegant Gaia Gaja juxtaposed with the cheddardog…

    Damn is she single? :-)

  3. Joe Dressner says:

    Wow!

    The Terlato’s flew in Tracie B.?

    Does she also work for them?

    My goodness….Gaja!

    Stock with the hot dogs. At least they have some honesty.

    How much wine does Boutari produce, just curious.

  4. Thor Iverson says:

    This isn’t going to help cure Whitney’s girl-crush. Nor anyone else’s, either.

  5. I’m still sure that the “simple” Barbaresco wines from Gaja are much much better than the most expensive high-flyer and international style Langhe Nebbiolo crus.
    I remember my surprise when I discover that in a Londonian Barbaresco 2004 blind tasting I really agree the wine of Gaja: http://vinoalvino.org/blog/2007/12/barbaresco-2004-wine-tasting-the-world-of-fine-wine-londra-prime-osservazioni.html

  6. Sgt. Sassafras says:

    Well, this is going well. Certainly Joe Dressler is an authority on the truth. Way to go, Joe, you are driving up Jeremy’s stats!

  7. Pat says:

    Jeremy – I have to admit I would have rather gone to Weiner Circle with Gaia than you. Did she curse at the staff in Italian?

    Joe -regarding your question – I’m not sure, but it has dropped considerably as Boutari no longer makes the high volume items for the U.S. market (not sure about Greece). They’re focusing on the premium wines.

    Since the Kallisti is not your cup of tea I suggest the Malagouzia Matsa – 80 cases imported. On sale in NY in June. Organic as well.

  8. Vinogirl says:

    Great tasting notes 2B…I would have loved to try that ’64!

  9. tracie p says:

    My 2B gets to have all of the fun!

  10. Pascal says:

    Damn…………I`m so jealous.

  11. good stuff.. sounds extraordinary… not only wieners and gaja, but lady gaia as well, very mythical

  12. Fabio Danzi says:

    Thanks for your post mate..real and artistic!
    I believe the Barbaresco ’78 would taste better after at least an hour and half in a decanter..I am saying this cause i had the pleasure to serve it about a month ago..spectacular!!same for ’89 actually even better..after 2 hours in a decanter the bouquet was so complex, original..unique!well balanced on the palate perfect acidity and body!!98/100!!!A bottle of Nuits St. George H.Geouges ’90 open previously was nothing compared it!!
    I am glad you tried ’64..on you mate!!!

    Cheers..

    -Fabio-

  13. Micaela Alex says:

    Hey may I use some of the material here in this post if I provide a link back to your site?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 5,125 other followers

%d bloggers like this: