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Rediscovering Gaja

by Gary Boom

Some great wine producers you instantly hit it off with, I remember my first bottle of La Chapelle, a 1978 served to me by Robert Rolls, it was pure love. The same with my first memorable Burgundy, a Clos Vougeot 1985 from Meo Camuzet. Thirty years later and I’ve loved every bottle of Meo I’ve ever had the pleasure of drinking. 


(Insider tip: buy as much Meo as you can, he is one of the last undervalued big producers in Burgundy.)


Then there are other producers whom I can’t quite get my head around, I know I'm meant to love Domaine Jean-Louis Chave’s reds (the whites are a different story). I have one of the world’s great collections, yet every time I pull out a bottle it never quite hits the spot. I’m told  it will get better but I find myself steering away from it in my cellar since I know what I will get from it. Many great tasters tell me I am wrong, perhaps I will never understand or get pleasure from it.

All the more reason to get excited when I finally have a really great bottle from a producer I’ve never really gotten on with, the Piemonte giant Gaja. I’ve never felt certain about these wines, something tells me they’re overpriced and not the real deal. Last night, I cracked open a 1990 Barbaresco, lo and behold,  I caught it in absolute perfection. Lovely sweet fruit, tar and liquorice, firm yet soft tannins. No idea of a score, but it gave me pure pleasure and made me think, exactly what I love in a wine. 


Italian wines often perplex me and I struggle with the searing levels of tannins that can be unripe or unbalanced, this bottle showed me it need not be this way. My solution now is to give these Italian bottles time to soften those tannins and let it all come together, never have I been so happy to be proven wrong.


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