Angelo Gaja is a master of growth, innovation and change. The star vintner took over his family’s Piedmont winery in 1961, building it into a powerhouse for the region. “Along the way he pioneered the concept of single-vineyard Barbaresco, estate bottling, and modernized winemaking,” said senior editor Bruce Sanderson, introducing Wine Experience attendees to the man who “needs little introduction.”
With daughter Gaia by his side, Angelo shared how climate change poses a new test to their resilience and ingenuity. “The grape variety and the soil, in the life of the vineyard, stay the same,” Angelo began. “What changes are the climate conditions.” In recent years, he has seen the growing season start earlier, the ripening process quicken, harvest begin too early, vineyard pests become more problematic, and sugar and alcohol increase beyond their preferred levels.
“Today, we have to find new ways to keep our vineyard alive,” Gaia furthered. “Our knowledge and our experience are not enough anymore because changes are rapid, and we have to find new ways to make our vineyards adapt.”
The Gajas are proactively facing these new challenges, working with vineyard consultants, improving soils by switching from manure to compost (aided by California red worms) and combatting pests such as moths by disrupting their mating with pheromones instead of relying on pesticides. They’ve increased biodiversity on their Piedmont estate as well, planting cypress trees and cultivating bees.
Showing that they're still reaching the pinnacle of quality despite changing conditions, they poured their Pieve Santa Restituta Brunello di Montalcino Sugarille 2010 (96 points, $190). Angelo left the crowd with a plea: “We have to be careful. We have to protect the planet and the future generations.”
Learn more about the Gajas from previous Wine Experience presentations, WineSpectator.com videos and our magazine cover story:
• Gaja: Modernity, Tradition and Passion in Italy (2013 Wine Experience)
• Video: Gaja in Piedmont with Gaia and Angelo Gaja
• Video: Gaja in Tuscany with Gaia and Angelo Gaja
• Wine Star: Angelo Gaja (2011 Wine Experience)
• Video: Angelo Gaja: The Greatest Wine Ever ...
• Angelo Gaja: Italian Colossus (Oct. 31, 2011, cover story)