Fine Wine Safari New Release Notes – Tasting the Impressive New Gaja Barbaresco 2017…

July 2020 sees the new release of the famed Gaja Barbaresco 2017 vintage produced from 14 vineyards situated in the municipality of Barbaresco. The land, at a height between 250 and 330m above the sea level, covers a surface of 21.4 hectares and vines are between 40 and 45 years old on average.

After the abundance of rainfall at the end of 2016 and beginning of 2017, a suitable amount of water combined with the warm spring, led to an earlier than anticipated bud break, which occurred 15 days earlier than usual. By mid-April 2017, three days of frost had hit the Barbaresco area, leading to a strict selection in the vineyards which resulted in the loss of -10% of the overall production.

However, the sudden drop in temperatures led to a positive slow-down of the vegetative growth cycle, whereas the summer proved to be one of the warmest in the last 10 years. Overall, 2017 will be remembered for the healthiness of the grapes, due to the dry growing season and for the overall drop in the production which the Gaja estate estimated at up to -20% to -30% by the time of picking. The harvest began on September 13th with the Merlot, followed by the Barbera and ending with the late ripening Nebbiolo grapes on October 20th.

Gaja Barbaresco DOP 2017, 14.2 % Abv.

The 2017 Barbaresco is a vintage of low quantity but undoubtedly high quality. After the warm dry vintage, the final expression is one of concentration of fruit as well as acidity and tannins from grapes with a low juice to skin ratio. The nose is perfumed and inviting from the first pull of the cork, showing a complex bouquet of cherry blossom, rose petals, red liquorice, sour red and black cherries, sun raisined strawberries and a classical, cranberry and aniseed root spice. Powerful in the mouth yet notably fine grained in texture and classically mineral with sweet velvety tannins balancing the fruit concentration of red cherries, sour plums and hints of ripe blood orange. Despite the heat of the vintage, the wine retains impressive linearity and classical restraint more reminiscent of a vintage like 2015 while the fruit of the 2017s are purer, more elegant and harmonious and a little less plump, fleshy and rounded in comparison. A beautifully expressive wine showing fabulous freshness, precise and considerate extraction and a grand Nebbiolo intensity and persistence. Drink from release until the aromatics and palate start to tighten up and then over the next 15+ years.

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

(The Gaja wines are imported and distributed to the UK wine trade by Hatch Mansfield.)

Tasting the Sensational New Release Marchesi Di Gresy Martinenga 2015 with Jeff Chilcott in London…

If the wines of Angelo Gaja are the Domaine de la Romanee Conti of Barbaresco, then in my mind the pure, precise, fragrant, linear expressions from Kiwi winemaker Jeff Chilcott must surely be the Armand Rousseau. Coming from a site famous since ancient Roman times, the Marchesi Di Gresy estate was originally known as ‘Villa Martis’ with its 11 hectares of single vineyard Martinenga Nebbiolo producing some of the best Barbaresco DOCG reds in the region.

Marchesi Di Gresy own the entirety of Martinenga and split it into three cru terroirs – Gaiun (2.3ha south-facing), Camp Gros (2.6ha south-west facing) and Martinenga (6.5ha facing south/south-west). This ideal exposure at an altitude of 250-280m contains a very special soil composition of blue marl (a mix of clay, chalk and limestone) which all help combine to produce wines of exceptional class, structure and finesse.

Tasting with winemaker Jeff Chilcott in London recently.

The owner Alberto is rarely over in London showing his estate’s wines but these days is more often than not ably supported by his daughter Ludovica and son Alessandro. I recently caught up with Jeff on one of his flying visits to London and had the opportunity to taste the range with him including his sensational new Martinenga 2015 Barbaresco.

Marchesi di Gresy Barbaresco Martinenga 2015, 14.5 Abv.

From a warm year in Barbaresco, winemaker Jeff Chillcott recons they managed to make a very decent wine. Piedmont of course prefers the cooler years, but in 2015 they had to pick before the end of September. The wine is fabulously perfumed and precise with a piquant note of dried almonds, sour red cherry, pink musk, exotic cherry blossoms and red currant crumble. On the palate there is the usual impressive precision, purity and linearity you find in all Jeff’s Barbarescos. The entry is very seductive with a sweet pocket of spicy, pithy red cherry confit combined with a gravelly minerality. The texture is oh so fine, like polished marble and the acids fresh but soft and perfectly integrated. Medium bodied in weight, silky smooth and utterly seductive, this wine has enough ripeness, freshness and mineral tannin grip to allow good age ability. Definitely one for the collection!

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

The Gaja Barbaresco 2015 – Quite Simply the Most Impressive New Release Gaja Barbaresco Expression Tasted in Over a Decade….

Gaja’s Barbaresco is a truly magnificent wine and needs no introduction. A firm favourite amongst collectors, it is produced from fourteen unique vineyard sites in the commune of Barbaresco and offers an incredible insight into the brilliance of Gaja’s Nebbiolo wines. Extremely complex and refined, it is aged in barrels for twelve months before being blended together and matured for a further twelve months in large oak casks. A wine which is normally approachable relatively young, the 2015 will definitely improve for 10+ years and age well over two decades.

Antonio Galloni says that the “warm growing season yielded supple, radiant Barbarescos.” Following a mild winter and a protracted and damp spring, which replenished the water tables, temperatures rose steadily in July and August. The vines responded well, a result in part of the many innovations introduced in the vineyards in recent years by the Gaja family. Ideal weather conditions before the harvest allowed the grapes to ripen quickly and evenly producing perfectly ripe fruit with exceptionally regular bunches.

Widely regarded as an outstanding vintage with great promise, 2015 has broader shoulders with richer flavours than the previous vintage combined with “intense aromas and lovely energetic fruit” according to Gaia Gaja.

Gaja Barbaresco DOP 2015, 14 Abv.

This has always been one of Gaja’s greatest wines as well as greatest value wines. But dispensing with commercial intricacies, this wine has also always been the perennial over performer out punching many Crus (even from Gaja) in blind tastings. The aromatics suggest something grand and complex, something more profound than your average year, and in 2015, that is exactly what this wine delivers. Elegantly perfumed, very precise and pure, with a beautifully perfumed bouquet of crunchy red cherry, freshly plucked rose petals, violets and exotic spices. Quite reticent and restrained, more in the mould of knowing it is great without having to shout about it. On the palate, there is power and depth, concentration and density of fruit, with layers of red cherry, blueberry, sour red plum and piquant, grippy chalky natural grape tannins. There is plenty of energy here, power and intensity, all as you’d expect from a warm powerful vintage in Piedmont. This is an a impressive addition to the Gaja Barbaresco archive and one you should probably look to start drinking in 3 to 5 years and cellar for 20+. A very impressive wine indeed.

(Greg Sherwood MW –  95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Tasting with the great Angelo Gaia at the winery.

Fine Wine Friday… at Chez Bruce

A thoroughly enjoyable gathering of wine friends today at restaurant Chez Bruce in Wandsworth, London, with a super selection of Autumnal dishes cooked by chef Bruce Poole. 


Fine wine is of course not made to be tasted, but drunk, and preferably enjoyed with great food. Our first course, Tagliatelle with braised duck paired beautifully with an impressive Gaja Barbaresco Sori San Lorenzo 1986 (94+/100) and a mature but impressive Carretta Barolo Cannubi Riserva Speciale 1971 (93+/100).


The Carretta 1971 showed alluring notes of blood oranges soaked in cognac, with hints of stewed winter fruits, sour plums, orange rind, and barley sugar. Very sweet and plump, the tannins were powdery and the structure seamless and lengthy. Evolved seductive wine showing plenty of tertiary, foresty complexity. 


Next blind pair was very intriguing, matched with venison medallions served with a mini shoulder pasty. Beautiful dish, delicious wines. First up, a Chateau Lynch Bages 1970 Pauillac brought along by Neal Martin. This was a rich, earthy wine with lipstick and leather, black berries, licorice, burnt sugar, sweet meat juices and a slightly rustic grainy elegance. (92/100). 


The second wine of the pairing was another Bordeaux, a Chateau Haut Bailly 1970 Pessac-Leognan. A touch stinky to start, this wine opened up beautifully to reveal classic cedary spice, earthy gravelly forest fruits, bloody irony complexity and precise, linear acids. Very pretty, regal wine. (93+/100). 


Other notable wines on this Fine Wine Friday included a tantalising Francois Mikulski Meursault 1er Cru Genevrieres 2013 (95/100), Henschke Hill of Grace Shiraz 1995 (92+/100), Bodegas Protos Gran Reserva 1964 Ribera del Duero (89/100) and a Joseph Leitz Riesling Beerenauslese 1997 (91+/100).


Many thanks to the wonderful Chez Bruce staff who helped make the day so enjoyable. 

Tasting Note: Gaja Sori San Lorenzo Barbaresco DOP 2013 

The 2013 Sori San Lorenzo has a seductive, alluring dark smokey nose of black cassis, cherry, tar, licorice, exotic spices and a dominant graphite undertone. Fully lush, plush and powerful but with superb elegance, depth, power and textured sweet rounded tannins. This is a monumental wine displaying all the hallmark sweet fleshy generosity of a Costa Russi blended with the taught, linear power of a Sori Tilden. Wow, this is incredibly impressive in its youth, but promises a very very long illustrious future. Possibly the finest young Sori San Lorenzo released to date. Wine Safari Score: 99/100 Greg Sherwood MW (UK Release price £1,695.00 IB per 6 – Sept 2016)

A once in a lifetime fine wine event…

It was never going to be easy deciding what to write about for my first ever ‘fine wine safari’ blog post, but fortunately, the opportunity to attend one of the most anticipated food and wine celebrations of 2016 presented itself… and the rest as they say is history.

On the 8th and 9th of September 2016, a small select group of UK wine trade buyers, journalists and big hitting private clients were invited to Barbaresco, Italy, to join the iconic producer Angelo Gaja and his family, in celebrating their 20 year long relationship with UK importer Armit Wines. I was privileged enough to be invited on this once in a life time experience.

Here are my highlights…

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My vintage and one of the finest wines of the entire trip.
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A name that resonates in the fine wine world.
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Sitting on the top table next to Angelo. A true honour.
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Nebbiolo. The grape that makes it all possible… here in the Costa Russi vineyard.
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The beautifully photogenic Gaia Gaja.
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Rossana Gaja in the Costa Russi vineyard.
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Sunrise over the hills of Serralunga.
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Giovanni Gaja talking viticulture.
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The infamous Barbera vines that used to be included in the Gaja Cru’s until 2012.
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The famed honey bees above the Costa Russi vineyard.
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The chapel in Barbaresco.
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Dusk over Barbaresco.
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The Gaja cellar… one to be envied.
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The Gala celebration dinner.
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Fantastically long aged whites.
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The epic maiden vintage of Gaja’s Gaia & Rey Chardonnay 1983. Fresh as a daisy!
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Two of the Crus of Gaja, Sori Tilden and Costa Russi, and the Barbaresco 2001.
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Barbaresco 1958. Drinking fine wine history. One of the wines of the night with the 1971.
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The 2013 new release Barbaresco DOP Crus. The dawn of a new era at Gaja.
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Name the mystery fine wine buyer… ??
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Trattoria Antica Torre… a favourite of the Gaja family and winery staff.
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Vitello tonnato… to die for.
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Who doesn’t enjoy a wagon wheel of fresh Parmesan?
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Why open one bottle of 1958 Barbaresco when you can have five?!
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Beautifully pure and fragrant Gaia & Rey Chardonnay grappa to end an historic evening.
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A wine selection to die for. Almost certainly never to be matched or repeated anytime soon! With Angelo’s signature of approval….