This article looks at the new releases from the Gaja family and includes their flagship Barbaresco and Barolo releases as well as their releases from Pieve Santa Restituta and Ca’Marcanda.

Looking at the Gaja releases, these come mostly from the 2017 vintage, which was a challenging, scorching hot year that made reaching full phenolic ripeness difficult. The 2017s possess lighter colors, more streamlined textures, and present, firm tannins. These can be common traits in wines from abnormally hot vintages as the vines can struggle in the heat and are forced to shut down and halt their ripening process. Gaia commented she had never seen berries so small, and they adjusted their vinification to include crushing the berries, removing seeds, and fermenting at cooler temperatures. The result is beautiful, elegant wines that have perfumed, spice-laced aromas and flavors, more medium-bodied textures, and both notable acidity and tannin. All of the wines needed plenty of air to show at their best, and most showed even better on the second day. There’s undoubtedly some upfront appeal here, yet these wines will benefit from short-term bottle age and are going to age gracefully given their tannins, acid, and overall balance.

I was also able to taste their 2016 Barolo Sperss, which is always released after their single vineyard Barbaresco. This beauty comes from a more even, classic year and offers everything you could want: Incredible aromatics, thrilling richness, perfect balance, and a majestic, layered, seamless profile that is impossible to resist. In this reviewer’s opinion, the 2016 Sperss is a legendary Barolo in the making. It’s worth noting that the word “Sperss” is a dialect word that translates roughly to nostalgia, and the name is an homage to the wines the family produced from Barolo from 1950 to 1961. During this period, the family relied on purchased grapes mostly from Serralunga (a small portion came from Castiglione Falletto). The family decided to stop producing a Barolo in 1961, and it wasn’t until 1988, when they purchased 26 hectares in the heart of Serralunga, that they released a new Barolo, labeling it “Sperss” in remembrance of their older wines from the same region.

The Pieve Santa Restituta estate was acquired by the Gaja family in 1994 and is located in the southwest portion of Brunello di Montalcino, a region known for producing structured, concentrated wines. I was able to taste their Brunello Rennina and Brunello Sugarille, both showing beautifully yet with distinctly different styles. While the Rennina comes from a handful of vineyards and shows an upfront, expressive style, the Sugarille comes from a single site of more white, rocky, limestone soils and is a darker, more black-fruited expression of Brunello. Both wines show the ripe, sunny, sexy style of the vintage nicely. As I say in the notes, 2-4 years of bottle age are warranted.

Lastly, Ca’Marcanda was created in 1996 and covers 150 acres in Castagneto Carducci, in Bolgheri. These wines focus on Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Syrah. Both 2018s showed beautifully, the Magari in particular, and these wines all have a very Bordeaux-like style in their textures and tannin profiles. The flagship is the Camarcanda, and this more Cabernet Sauvignon-dominated wine showed a more sunny, perfumed style (it’s from the 2017 vintage) while staying balanced and light on its feet. While both 2018s already offer plenty of pleasure, the smart money is on giving the Camarcanda a solid 3-4 years, if not longer, in the cellar.

As always, thanks for reading and happy hunting!


By Jeb Dunnuck
Founder & Wine Critic
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