Da Alfonso: 1978 Gaja Barbera or the mother of all mommy posts

Above: the star of the evening last Saturday was a 1978 Barbera I Fagiani d’Oro (Golden Pheasants) by Angelo Gaja.

My good friend Alfonso Cevola, one of the wine bloggers I admire most and the top English-language Italian wine blogger in my book, often teases me about my “mommy posts.” We’re all guilty of authoring mommy posts: show me the wine blogger and I’ll show you the “mommy, I drank this, I drank that” post.

Above: the text in the arc above the appellation name advises, “da bersi a temperature di cantina” or drink at cellar temperature.

Well, here goes nothin’… On the occasion of our recent and first visit to his home last Saturday, Alfonso opened the doors of his cellar and plucked a few gems from his trésor. These included, among others, a Jacques Selosse NV Champagne (I’d never tasted before; simply brilliant), a Barbera d’Alba I Fagiani d’Oro 1978 Angelo Gaja (the star of the evening for me), and a Château Mouton-Rothschild 1982 (with label by John Huston).

Above: Alfonso grilled fiorentine (Tuscan-style porterhouses) for our main course.

The 1978 Barbera was one of the most thrilling wines I’ve tasted in some time: it was so alive, with great acidity and fruit, a stunning example of traditional-style Barbera. Few think of Barbera as an age-worthy grape variety. But when vinified in a traditional style, this grape achieves a sublime lightness in body. I’d never seen a Gaja Barbera from any vintage and any info and/or thoughts would be appreciated. Alfonso and I kept expecting the wine to die as it aerated, but it just kept giving us delicious sensation until the very last drop.

Above: I kicked back and sipped Puro (my contribution) and Selosse as Tracie B (right) made pasta with pomodorini and mozzarella, Kim sautéed some biodynamic Swiss chard, and Alfonso grilled the steaks. Ah, life is good…

Earlier this year, Eric le Rouge and I tasted a 1978 Gaja Barbaresco at Manducatis in Long Island City, Queens. The 1978 harvest in Piedmont was a great one and Angelo Gaja was still making traditional wines aged in botti (as opposed to the new French oak he uses today). Both wines sapevano di langa… they both tasted of the Langa hills where they were made.

Above: the cork in the Barolo 1971 Pira fell apart and so I used an ah-so cork screw to remove it. Unfortunately, the wine had died, but such is life. Does anybody know the etymology of the word “ah-so”? Dr. J must confess that he’s stumped. Maybe this is a quaesitio for Dr. Vino.

Above: Alfonso seasoned the beef with “profumo del Chianti” by Panzanese butcher Dario Cecchini.

The Selosse, so hard-to-find and beyond my price point, was simply brilliant. Even at the entry-level, this non-vintage Champagne “Initial,” a Grand Cru blanc de blancs blended from three different vineyards and vintages, was impressively nuanced yet powerful in the mouth, with many great years ahead of it. A great example of Chardonnay in one of its finest expressions. The 1982 Mouton was a treat for me inasmuch as I rarely get to taste old Bordeaux and while I can’t say that it floored me (and it struck me as more modern-leaning in style than other first growth I’ve tasted), I thoroughly appreciated its historic significance as a benchmark wine from a watershed vintage.

Alfonso, what can I say? Thanks for an unforgettable evening. Can you blame me for mommy blogging? ;-)

On deck: thoughts on the Grassy Knoll on the 45th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination and foodie notes from Dallas.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

9 thoughts on “Da Alfonso: 1978 Gaja Barbera or the mother of all mommy posts

  1. I had the pleasure of drinking an 89 mascarello monprivato a few weeks back and the next morning I told no less than 13 people about it before 11AM. Mommy posts are good!

    While not super old, and not traditional either, the 1997 Braida Barbera d Asti “Ai Suma” is still drinking really well. It surely has more years ahead.

  2. As I recall from my Japanese studies many years ago, “ah so” is an old and common Japanese expression that was adopted by English speakers as a sort of joke (making fun of the Japanese, I guess) and kept because it just happened to match up with English in approximate meaning and pronunciation.

  3. [“Ah-so” is a translation of the German title, “Ach so!”, an expression meaning roughly “Ah, I see.” It is named so because its appearance often baffles people, but when its use is demonstrated, they often exclaim “Ah! So that’s how it works”]………Wikipedia

  4. Tracie B, we both used the ah-so oh-so well… ;-)

    AC, hairy knuckles, clearly, are a sign of superior intelligence! ;-)

    Noah, mommy blog away! 89 Monprivato must have been killer! :-)

    Strappo, keep on doing that voodoo, that you do ah-so well… ;-)

    Jason, thanks for the reference. :-) I see in Wikipedia that it comes from Ed’s book… I’ll write him and see where he found it…

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