The Gaja estate’s qualitative supremacy and cachet are not solely attributable to Angelo. In fact, his father’s 1961 Barbaresco may be the most profound bottling of its designation ever to be produced. The Gaja name represents a legacy of quality that has evolved since the family immigrated from Spain over 300 years ago.
Angelo maintained his family’s high standards of production while inaugurating a new stylistic direction—more often than not through measures that incited controversy. Foremost among these was his inaugural use of barrique in the vinification of his 1975 Barbaresco cuvée. Gaja is widely credited with having instituted this practice, the objective of which is to soften the formidable tannins of the Nebbiolo grape, thereby producing a wine that is richer and more concentrated in its fruit expression than traditional models. Other early efforts included the reduction of crop size, shortened pruning of Nebbiolo vines, and decreased fermentation periods.
The 1967 debut release of Sorì San Lorenzo began his pioneering work with the vinification of single-vineyard wines. This was succeeded by two additional crus, Sorì Tildin (1970) and Costa Russi (1978), both of which derive from the Roncagliette Vineyard. Each member of this legendary trio is both recognized for achieving a substantive period of maturation and avidly sought on the collector’s market, where all invariably enjoy a substantive degree of appreciation. Gaja didn’t stop there, however, going on to defy Piemonte’s varietal protocol by relaunching Cabernet Sauvignon’s presence in the region after nearly a century-long absence, a revolutionary act captured in the vineyard’s name, Darmagi— meaning“what a pity”—the expression his father would utter when he passed by the spot, formerly a Nebbiolo site. He continued to elicit unrest and disapprobation through his dedicated planting of Chardonnay in the Gaia & Rey Vineyard (1981), the source of his now famous eponymous bottling. This was followed shortly thereafter by a vineyard for Sauvignon Blanc—Alteni di Brassica