Gaja is one of the best-known wine producers in all of Italy. Originating in and still based in Barbaresco, in northwest Italy, the Gaja name remains most strongly associated with Nebbiolo-based wines, though the company now makes more wine in Tuscany than Piedmont.
The business was founded in 1859 by Giovanni Gaja with just 5 acres of vineyards in Barbaresco. Each generation saw expansion, although Angelo Gaja, who took over full-time in 1970, is often credited with the estate's more recent success. He was responsible for overseeing sweeping changes in the vineyards and cellars, and introducing the famed single-vineyard Barbaresco wines Sorì San Lorenzo, Sorì Tildìn, and Costa Russi (now Langhe DOC wines). These changes were not always well-received: famously, the name of the Darmagi Cabernet Sauvignon translates as 'what a pity', referring to Angelo's father's regret over the introduction of Bordeaux varieties.
Gaja is famous for having modernized Piedmont, introducing international grape varieties and winemaking practices more common in Bordeaux or California. However, traditional elements remain, such as long macerations and the use of larger oak barrels (albeit in combination with new barriques). The estate generated a lot of attention when it began to blend a small amount of Barbera into all but two of its Barbaresco and Barolo wines, relegating them to the Langhe DOC classification. Angelo Gaja insisted this was a traditional practice to correct acidity, and at any rate, the label focused on the vineyard name, rather than the appellation.
92 WS - A very ripe red, almost raisiny and curranty. Full-bodied, with chewy tannins and lots of tar and ripe fruit character. Getting better, but still a bit austere. Needs time.--1996 Piedmont retrospective. 1,300 cases made.