Angelo Gaja from the region of Piemonte in the northern part of Italy is arguably the country’s most well-known producer of wine. Located in Barbaresco, Mr. Gaja is considered a modernist, and is known i.a. for reintroducing French grape varieties in Piemonte, which was quite controversial at the time. For instance, in 1978, the Darmagi vineyard in Barbaresco, which was premium Nebbiolo land, was replanted with Cabernet Sauvignon (this practice would without doubt still be controversial).
With the 1996 vintage, Gaja chose to declassify most of his wines, leaving only one Barbaresco and one Barolo. Under the Italian DOCG, both the Barbaresco and the Barolo classification stipulates that the respective wine is all-Nebbiolo. Now, these two labels are very strong trademarks, which naturally implies high prices. Gaja meant that the Nebbiolo grape in many cases would benefit from a blend with its less-respected cousin Barbera. As an example, both the Costa Russi and the Sorì Tildìn is 95% Nebbiolo and 5% Barbera, while the Sperss is 94% Nebbiolo and 6% Barbera. Thus, he cannot use the Barbaresco/Barolo label for these wines.
Needless to say, an intentional declassification indicates good self-confidence and conviction of the inherent quality of the grapes and – ultimately – the final product: the wines.
Gaja bottles a relatively large range of wines for being a top-quality producer, and his wines certainly don’t come for free; at the Systembolaget, the Costa Russi 2004 and the Sorì Tildìn 2004 are both 2495 SEK.
However, the 2005 Dagromis Barolo is a lot more inexpensive, even though it still will make at least a small hole in your wallet. The Dagromis Barolo blends fruit from the Gromis vineyard in La Morra with another Gaja-owned vineyard in Serralunga d’Alba and is just amazing. On the palate it shows tar, roses, chocolate, cherries. Complex, concentrated, balanced. It is very slender and subtle but still highly characteristic. I had this one with game and baked root vegetables, and it was just brilliant. 93p.
This is good value for your money and there are still bottles left at SB. Buy a couple of them and put them in your wardrobe for another five years. Or what the hell: drink them now. It is already awfully enjoyable. You’ll get five bottles of top-quality wine for the price of one ugly-fitting Brothers suit.
Borgo del Tiglio located in the region of Friuli Venezia Giulia, close to the border of Slovenia and about 50 km from the Adriatic Sea, is a totally different operation. Not very well-known outside of Italy, this producer makes fabulous white wines which must be among the finest in the country. I had the benefit to try out their complete range at VinItaly 2010 and will certainly visit the producer again at VinItaly 2011. Needless to say, I will taste whatever they put in front of me. Just about everything they do is at least “good” or better.
A private import of their wines via the SB is highly recommended: they are that good. Fortunately, I got to buy a couple of cases via my pals at Club Amarone.
The regular 2008 Collio Friulano is good, albeit still a bit too oaky. It needs to rest for a couple of years. This is 100% Tocai Friulano, an indigenous grape also known as Sauvignon Vert. The 2008 Collio Malvasia from the grape with the same name is just amazing. The best one we tasted. I have no tasting notes but will get back to you as soon as I open a bottle of it at home, Luckily, I have three bottles in the fridge.
The 2008 Collio Studio di Bianco is a blend of Tocai Friulano, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc. To an outsider, this blend appears unorthodox, but man does it work! Tropical fruits, butter and vanilla. The oak is very well balanced as far as I’m concerned. It is very rich on the palate and delivers loads of fruit while still upholding the acidity. I had this with beet roots and chèvre, but it was just as good for pre-dinner sipping. At approximately 300 SEK, this is a find. In the best of all worlds, this producer would be globally renowned for producing knockout whites. 92p.