Gaia Gaja tells me 2014 was one of the best vintages ever in Barbaresco, if not the best for her vineyards. She cites the prolonged growing season that continued at a slow rate during the cooler summer months only to speed up thanks to a heat spell at the very end, right before harvest. Nebbiolo loves slow maturity and a prolonged growth cycle: The 2014 vintage did indeed get off to an exceptionally slow start. The 2014 Barbaresco is not austere or astringent. Instead, it offers plump ripeness with rich fruit flavors backed by spice, licorice and tobacco. The wine offers good structure from the point of view of its tannins, yet there is no harshness or bitterness whatsoever.
I love writing my annual introduction to Gaja because there's always so much news to report. Last year, The Wine Advocate was the first to report that the estate's famously declassified wines, namely the Langhe Nebbiolo Costa Russi, Sorì Tildìn and Sorì San Lorenzo crus, had returned to the Barbaresco DOCG appellation. That tiny percentage of Barbera was removed and the wines are pure expressions of Nebbiolo from three distinct vineyards in the region. This year, we can add two more wines to full appellation status. Both from the Barolo region, Conteisa (from the Cerequio cru in La Morra) and Sperss (from the Marenca-Rivette vineyards in Serralunga d'Alba), have now officially returned to DOCG status. With the exception of the Bordeaux blend Darmagi, all of Gaja's top-end red wines are represented by either Barbaresco DOCG or Barolo DOCG status. I can confirm that the line of Barbaresco cru wines are being produced in the 2014 vintage and will be released next year. The other big news that broke during my trip to Etna, is that Angelo Gaja and his family have now invested on the Sicilian volcano. Gaja is joining forces with Alberto Aiello Graci of the Graci winery in Passopisciaro to make wine together. They bought 21 hectares of vines on the Southwest flank of the volcano. Gaja & Graci is big news for Etna, and is bigger news still for Gaja. The Piedmont powerhouse definitely knows how to grab those headlines.