Perched atop a steep hill in the Langhe sits the small village of Barbaresco, home of the GAJA winery. The story of the GAJA Winery can be traced to a singular, founding purpose: to produce original wines with a sense of place which reflect the tradition and culture of those who made it. This philosophy has inspired five generations of impeccable winemaking. It started over 150 years ago when Giovanni Gaja opened a small restaurant in Barbaresco, making wine to complement the food he served. In 1859, he founded the Gaja Winery, producing some of the first wine from Piedmont to be bottled and sold outside the region. Since that time, the winery has been shaped by each generation’s hand, notably that of Clotilde Rey, Angelo Gaja’s grandmother. Her passion for uncompromising quality influenced and informed Angelo Gaja. Through Angelo, these values have become the cornerstone of the GAJA philosophy and are engrained in every aspect of wine production
In 1961, Angelo Gaja began his mission of bringing this great winery to an even higher level. He was the first to use barriques, 225-liter French oak barrels. Under his direction, GAJA pioneered the production of single-vineyard designated wines and was the first to plant Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc varietals in Piedmont. He was also instrumental in elevating the native Nebbiolo grape to world-class esteem.
Angelo Gaja is joined by the fifth generation of the GAJA family – his daughters Gaia and Rossana and his son Giovanni. Together they continue to advance the winery’s legacy. To fully realize their vision, all GAJA wines are produced exclusively from grapes grown in estate-owned vineyards, including 250 acres in Piedmont’s Barbaresco and Barolo districts as well as estates in Pieve Santa Restituta (Montalcino) and Ca’Marcanda (Bolgheri). It is from these storied vineyards, and their terroir – the combination of soil, weather and vines that grow upon them, that GAJA wines reveal their true heart and soul.
One of the most iconic Italian regions for wine, scenery and history, Tuscany is the world’s most important outpost for the Sangiovese grape. Tuscan wine ranges in style from fruity and simple to complex and age-worthy, Sangiovese makes up a significant percentage of plantings here, with the white Trebbiano Toscano coming in second.
Within Tuscany, many esteemed wines have their own respective sub-zones, including Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. The climate is Mediterranean and the topography consists mostly of picturesque rolling hills, scattered with vineyards.
Sangiovese at its simplest produces straightforward pizza-friendly Tuscan wines with bright and juicy red fruit, but at its best it shows remarkable complexity and ageability. Top-quality Sangiovese-based wines can be expressive of a range of characteristics such as sour cherry, balsamic, dried herbs, leather, fresh earth, dried flowers, anise and tobacco. Brunello, an exceptionally bold Tuscan wine, expresses well the particularities of vintage variations and is thus popular among collectors. Chianti is associated with tangy and food-friendly dry wines at various price points. A more recent phenomenon as of the 1970s is the “Super Tuscan”—a red wine made from international grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Syrah, with or without Sangiovese. These are common in Tuscany’s coastal regions like Bolgheri, Val di Cornia, Carmignano and the island of Elba.
With hundreds of white grape varieties to choose from, winemakers have the freedom to create a virtually endless assortment of blended white wines. In many European regions, strict laws are in place determining the set of varieties that may be used in white wine blends, but in the New World, experimentation is permitted and encouraged. Blending can be utilized to enhance balance or create complexity, lending different layers of flavors and aromas. For example, a variety that creates a soft and full-bodied white wine blend, like Chardonnay, would do well combined with one that is more fragrant and naturally high in acidity. Sometimes small amounts of a particular variety are added to boost color or aromatics. Blending can take place before or after fermentation, with the latter, more popular option giving more control to the winemaker over the final qualities of the wine.