My Column

    Gaja’s Super Barbaresco 

    It is September 2 and the sun has been punching holes in the mass of clouds spread over the village of Barbaresco all morning. By mid-day, the cloud cover has given up. The village and the surrounding vineyards are once again bathed in warm sunshine. Even though the driest and hottest harvest season in more than 70 years is behind us, the foliage of the vineyards surrounding the village still shines green and abundant, protecting the Nebbiolo bunches ripening on the vines from direct sunlight. I'm about to meet Giovanni Gaja soon, but I can't wait to stop my car on the side of the road to taste some Nebbiolos from the vine. They are small, thick-skinned, ripe and juicy with gentle tannins. Although the skins are soft and tasty, the color of the seeds reveals that the physiological ripeness of the grapes has not yet been reached. "The harvest of Nebbiolo grapes will start in about four weeks if the weather stays like this", Giovanni Gaja states a moment later in the Gaja castle. In front of us is a delicious flight of Gaja wines – Alteni di Brassica 2020 (sauvignon blanc), Gaia & Rey 2020 (chardonnay), Barbaresco 2019, Barolo Conteisa 2018 and Barolo Sperss 2018.


    The wines show great integrity and charming finesse. They have everything in them but nothing too much. Barbaresco and Barolo, in particular, surprise with their suppleness and approachability with such a young age. "Nebbiolo is a resilient variety and I believe it is one of the varieties that adapts well to the climate change at least for now and even benefits from it. Thanks to its thick skin, the grape can withstand heat better. At the same time, its tannin structure softens and the naturally high acidity lowers, resulting in wines that no longer require years of ageing to soften like before," sums up Giovanni. In the discussion about wines, he brings up his family's pride and crown jewel, Barbaresco, and the 2019 vintage. "Our Barbaresco is traditionally made from Nebbiolo grapes from fourteen different plots, but in 2019 and 2018 we boosted it with the grapes from Sorí Tildin and Costa Russi vineyards. Neither year did we produce these single vineyard Barbaresco wines. Some might wonder why, especially on 2019 which was a stable, warm and exceptional vintage. The reason for the decision yielded from the previous vintage 2018, which was a really difficult season – cold and rainy. The hail storms that raged in Barbaresco in July damaged numerous vineyards and especially the Sorí San Lorenzo vineyard. To ensure sufficient Barbaresco production, we used all grapes from Sorí Tildin and Costa Russi for the Barbaresco wine. Sorí San Lorenzo's vineyard had suffered such enormous damage that we sold off the entire crop. While the 2019 harvest was recognised as an exceptional quality, we found that the grapes in Sorí San Lorenzo vineyard ripened unevenly and were unbalanced. We therefore ended up selling the 2019 Sorí San Lorenzo crop as well and enriched the Barbaresco wine with the Sorí Tildin and Costa Russi fruit."


    So, when it comes to 2019 Gaja Barbaresco, it can be called as a Super Barbaresco. The 2018 harvest instead, proved to be exceptionally challenging, but still the most 2018 Barolos and Barbarescos I have tasted charm with delicate elegance. The tannins are silky and refined and the wines deliciously enjoyable even now at a young age. Many have stated that the 2018 wines are short-lived, referring to the cold and rainy year, but I disagree. The wines of the esteemed producers such as Gaja will evolve in the bottle and offer pleasures in the 2030s. The elegantly composed Conteisa and Sperss offer a promise of that, as do numerous other 2018 wines I've tasted. On the other hand,... why wait for years, not to say decades, when the wines offer enjoyable taste experiences already today! 


    Alteni di Brassica 2020 (JL 93)

    Fresh and elegantly aromatic. Lovely passionfruit and tomato leaf nose with fine touch of oak. The palate is dry and crisp with broad mouthfilling texture. The fruit is vibrant and harmoniously lingering finish leaves tranquil and elegant aftertaste with some spices. Serves well already but benefits for 2-3 years’ ageing. (JL 93p, Sept 2, 2022)

     Gaia & Rey 2020 (JL 94)

    Rich and expressive nose with ripe white fruit aromas and charming tastiness. The dry palate is vivid yet brought and round. Touch of burnt butter flavour is rinsed with citrus notes. Vibrant toasty notes in the lingering finish. Decant for an hour and serve at 10-12°C with panfried turbot, or grilled Skrei with chanterelles. Drinks well already but will benefit for 3-4 years’ ageing. (JL 94p, Sept 2, 2022)


    Barbaresco 2019 (JL 96+)

    Refined and complex nose charms with spectrum of aromas – perfumey, violets, spices, ripe cherries and cranberries and smoky tones. Full-bodied palate is rich and vibrant with smooth texture and gentle chalky tannin structure. A long and balanced finish with firm and good tension.  Drinks well already but will reveal its true colours in 8-10 years time. (JL 96+p, Sept 2, 2022)


    Barolo Conteisa 2018 (JL 97)

    Intense, rich, toasty nose with spicy, floral notes. Full-bodied palate with vibrant ripe red fruit character – cherries and cranberries. Vivid acidity and very polished yet firm tannins are delicately integrated with the fruit. Super smooth, silky and refine finish is lingering and harmonious. True to classic La Morra style. Superb already but will evolve well for next 8-10 years. (JL 97p, Sept 2, 2022)


    Barolo Sperss 2018 (JL 95+)

    The nose express well the Serralunga d’Alba terroir. Rich and complex with dark cacao and earthy notes  Full-bodied palate shows great concentration formed by the acidity, minerality, and intense fruit character. The tannins are firm but supple. Long and intense finish. Superb Barolo that is already impressive and enjoyable but will definitely bloom after 5-7 years cellaring.  (JL 95+p, Sept 2, 2022)



    My Yesterday

    Juha Lihtonen is one of the most succeeded sommeliers in Nordics. This manyfold sommelier champion of his country won the title of the Best Nordic Sommelier in 2003. After sommelier competitions, he finished his WSET Diploma studies and continued the studies in Masters of Wine programme in London.

    On 2000 he founded the Wine Academy of Helsinki, where he run sommelier and wine waiter trainings. He published his first book in 2002 about comibining food and wine. This book was followed by several other ones, and he became active wine writer for several publications in Finland. He hosted a weekly national wine and food radio programme and launched his first food and wine application 'Matchart' with Nokia mobiles in 2003.

    From 2003 to 2007 he was the wine buyer of Silja Line – one of the biggest passenger ferry operators in the world. During this period he was also in charge of the ferries restaurant service and concept development.

    In 2006 he founded FINE Wine Magazines together with his friends Pekka Nuikki and Essi Avellan MW. He has worked for FINE Wine Magazines as their Editor since 2007. He is also the founder member of Tastingbook.com.


    Pro Me

    Juha Lihtonen is the co-founder of tastingbook.com. He is also known as the co-founder and Editor of the world's leading fine wine publications, FINE Magazines. In 2008, he founded together with Pekka Nuikki and Essi Avellan MW the magazine that was dedicated exclusively to champagne. FINE Champagne Magazine is the world's one and only champagne magazine.



Wine Moments

Here you can see wine moments from tastingbook users. or to see wine moments from your world.

Juha Lihtonen / The Best Scandinavian Sommelier 2003, Pro (Finland)  had a tasting of  9 Wines  from  1 Producers 

A unique Bollinger La Grande Année Jeroboam vertical tasting from 2015 to 1983 with cellar master Denis Bunner. Who says that Magnum format is superior for ageing champagnes.... when it comes to Bollinger, it's Jeroboam!  

16d 17h ago

Juha Lihtonen / The Best Scandinavian Sommelier 2003, Pro (Finland)  had a tasting of  8 Wines  from  1 Producers 

The Musigny of Champagne was in the glasses when tasting Louis Roederer & Cristal Rosé champagnes with the cellamaster Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon in Grand Champagne Helsinki 2024.

26d 1h ago

Juha Lihtonen / The Best Scandinavian Sommelier 2003, Pro (Finland)  had a tasting of  13 Wines  from  10 Producers 

Such an eye-opening Bordeaux tasting with flights of two wines partly from different eras and partly from the same vintages from 1982-2015.

The flight pairs gave an exciting reflection of how the wine making has changed during the past decades. Although it is because of modern equipment, better knowhow, new techniques in winemaking and vineyard management, the climate change must play a big role in equation. It is due to this that the top Bordeaux wines have more and more in common with the premium Napa reds such as Blankiet Rive Droite 2021 that we had as a parallel wine from Napa Valley in this tasting.

1m 14d ago

Juha Lihtonen / The Best Scandinavian Sommelier 2003, Pro (Finland)  had a tasting of  20 Wines  from  20 Producers 

Great wine dinner with 2 Michelin star chef Eero Vottonen. The stars of the flights were Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2008 (98+p), Château Palmer 1996 (97p) and Blankiet Estate 2018 (97p).

2m 18d ago

 Nadal  has updated producer and wine information

2m 24d ago

Juha Lihtonen / The Best Scandinavian Sommelier 2003, Pro (Finland)  had a tasting of  21 Wines  from  1 Producers 

There is no other wine producer in the world, who can set up such a complex tasting than Niepoort. Amazing wines with amazing styles with an impeccable quality! A true pioneer, who is making the next generation wines, but carrying still the legacy of the past with exquisite port wines.

6m 1d ago

Juha Lihtonen / The Best Scandinavian Sommelier 2003, Pro (Finland)  had a tasting of  45 Wines  from  31 Producers 

Impressive tasting that confirmed why First Growths are the First Growths. Super solid and tremendously good condition wines from the 19th century! Not the best wine of the tasting, but the true starfor me was Moët & Chandon Vin de Sillery 1807 – what a champagne!!!  

7m 29d ago

Vintage 1911, Moët & Chandon
Vintage 1915, Louis Roederer
Vintage 1911, Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin
Vintage 1929, Krug
Pol Roger vintage 1942, Pol Roger
Comtes de Champagne 2012, Taittinger
Cordon Rouge vintage 1893, G.H. Mumm
Cordon Rouge vintage 1893, G.H. Mumm
Cheval Blanc 1938, Château Cheval Blanc
Cheval Blanc 1929, Château Cheval Blanc
Château Latour 1938, Château Latour
Château Latour 1924, Château Latour
d'Yquem 1878, Château d'Yquem
d'Yquem 1918, Château d'Yquem
Salon 2007, Salon
Lafite-Rothschild 1920, Château Lafite-Rothschild
Château Margaux 1924, Château Margaux
Château Margaux 1884, Château Margaux
Château Margaux 1947, Château Margaux
Château Margaux 1918, Château Margaux
Château Margaux 1911, Château Margaux
Unico 1921, Bodegas Vega Sicilia
Château Mouton-Rothschild 1939, Château Mouton-Rothschild
Château Mouton-Rothschild 1899, Château Mouton-Rothschild
Château Mouton-Rothschild 1917, Château Mouton-Rothschild
Château Palmer 1884, Château Palmer
Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 1868, Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande
Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 1937, Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande
Montrose 1892, Château Montrose
Romanée St-Vivant 1929, Louis Jadot
Château Beychevelle 1887, Château Beychevelle
Château Gruaud-Larose 1934, Château Gruaud-Larose
Château Gruaud-Larose 1900, Château Gruaud-Larose
Richebourg 1943, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti
Romanée Conti 1900, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti
Château Calon Ségur 1929, Château Calon-Ségur
Cabernet Sauvignon 1936, Beringer Vineyards
Pinot Noir 1945, Beringer Vineyards
Château Pontet Canet 1889, Château Pontet Canet
Château Branaire 1900, Château Branaire-Ducru
Château Durfort-Vivens 1869, Château Durfort-Vivens
Château La Conseillante 1937, Château La Conseillante
Romanée Conti 1923, Van der Meulen
Giovanni Pippione 1918, Giovanni Pippione
Reserva Especial 1933, Bodegas Palacios

Juha Lihtonen / The Best Scandinavian Sommelier 2003, Pro (Finland)  had a tasting of  17 Wines  from  2 Producers 

Day one in Barolo 2019 & Barbaresco 2020 tastings.  Lovely and very impressive wines from both Andrea Sottimano and Mauro Veglio. Sottimano shows its true potential weith its Sottimano 2001 and 2010 vintages.

10m 28d ago

 Sipp Mack  has updated producer and wine information

11m 29d ago

Juha Lihtonen / The Best Scandinavian Sommelier 2003, Pro (Finland)  had a tasting of  17 Wines  from  16 Producers 

What a suprising tasting with such great experiences. The most intersting was Dominus 1992 (97p) vs Lafite 1988 (97p). Very close each others – flavours were almost the same, in texture Lafite showed more vibrant mineral savouryness. Still La Landonne 2009 (98p) overtook the two on the podium.  

1y 12h ago

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