The next generation at Gaja, the superstar Piedmont producer in the heart of Barbaresco, is making its presence felt. Gaia Gaja announced this week that as of the 2013 vintage, the iconic winery is relabeling its three single-vineyard reds—Costa Russi, Sorì Tildin and Sorì San Lorenzo—as appellation-specific Barbaresco. They will therefore be required to be 100 percent Nebbiolo.
Since the 1996 vintage, the wines have been labeled under the less-stringent Langhe designation, which allows the blending of other grape varieties, in Gaja’s case Barbera, up to 15 percent. Gaja patriarch and Gaia's father Angelo Gaja shocked the world when he made this decision in 2000, but always insisted he was simply elevating the status of the family’s blended Barbaresco. At the time, he feared the traditional way of making Barbaresco by blending several plots together was viewed as a lesser wine than the three single vineyards.
Times are different now, according to Gaia, who has been working alongside her father for 12 years, and has recently been joined by her sister Rossana and brother Giovanni. “Now is time for us to make our own choices. Together we want to follow our own path, which is to have the single vineyards back to the Barbaresco denomination and to devote ourselves to Nebbiolo and fully enhance its expression.”
The three vineyards exhibit differences between each other, even with Barbera blended in, but the transmission of the character of individual vineyard sites can often be most purely expressed by a single grape variety. A blind tasting of these Barbarescos from the 1985 vintage last October was revealing.
The most recent vintage of Costa Russi, Sorì Tildin and Sorì San Lorenzo is 2011. They were not bottled in 2012. The next release, 2013, will bear the Barbaresco DOP (Denominazione Origine Protetta). The DOP designation is the EU equivalent of DOCG, or Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita, Italy's highest designation of site quality.