1990 Gaja Barbaresco

96
RP
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Product ID
1990-gaja-barbaresco
 

Wine Critic Reviews for 1990 Gaja Barbaresco

Gaja’s 1990 Barbaresco shows an unbelievable level of youthfulness that absolutely defies the effects of time. Blackberry, cherry and plum are miraculously intact and immaculately preserved. This Barbaresco offers much more than a solid base of fruit to keep it relevant. The bouquet is beautifully expressive with etched mineral tones of chalk and brimstone as well as elegantly ethereal layers of balsam herb, rosemary, cola and Asian spice. The wine is drinking superbly at the moment and there’s an exciting level of tension and energy that sets it apart from the rest. The 1990 vintage was released as Angelo Gaja was enjoying one of his many career highpoints. In 1988, he purchased vineyards in the Barolo appellation (previously he purchased fruit) and his landmark Barolo Sperss was released in 1992. In the 1990s, he would expand his winemaking reach to Montalcino and Bolgheri (both in Tuscany) with additional acquisitions in those areas. The success of the 1990 vintage was a huge part of this magical moment on the Gaja timeline. With good potential for further aging, this bottle can be opened now or stored in the cellar for another decade or more. Drink: 2014-2028.

Robert Parker Wine Advocate | 96 RP
The 1990 Barbaresco emerges from the glass with an exotic array of tar, smoke, licorice and grilled herbs. There is wonderful intensity to the fruit and plenty of structure. The tannins are still a bit young and the wine is only now beginning to enter the early part of what looks to be a long drinking window! The 1990 Barbaresco is a touch rounder and softer than the 1989, with perhaps just a little less aromatic complexity and inner perfume, although that is splitting hairs at this level. The finish is long, intense and deeply satisfying. This is a marvelous bottle of Barbaresco.

Antonio Galloni | 95 AG
A stunning wine, rich, ripe and supple, balanced with beautifully realized berry, red plum, vanilla and exotic spices, smoothly playing the fruit and toasty oak character off each other. A many layered wine that is approaching drinkability. 7,500 cases made.

Wine Spectator | 94 WS

Wine Details on 1990 Gaja Barbaresco

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Producer Gaja: Gaja: these two syllables are not only recognized world-wide, but evoke one of the greatest and most respected traditions in European winemaking. However simple it may sound, it speaks volumes about the Family, who is widely credited with transforming not just the image and international reputation of its native Piedmont region, but of Italy as a whole; raising awareness of the quality of single vineyard and parcel by parcel vinification and pioneering the cultivation of non-native varietals in Piedmont. The Gaja family has had a significant impact on the way that Italian wine is grown, made, priced, distributed and marketed. After World War II and the phylloxera epidemic devastated Europe, it was the Gaja family who put Barbaresco on the map, helping to elevate the quality and allure of the region. Gaja is one of a handful of fine wine brands that can compete with and charge the same price as the top names of Burgundy and Bordeaux. The Gaja estate’s long history and reputation are rooted in the meticulous production of wine from grape to glass.

The Gaja estate, founded in 1859 by Giovanni Gaja, has been directed by Angelo Gaja (Giovanni’s great-grandson) since the early 1960s and continues to honor and uphold his father and grandfather’s legacy. With the help of his three children, representing the fifth generation to operate the 163 year old winery, the Gaja Estate continues to thrive in Piedmont and has extended its holdings into Tuscany and beyond. Today’s portfolio reflects the family’s tireless efforts to remain true to the culture of traditional Italian winemaking, but also their willingness to act intrepidly. The collection includes the flagship trio of renowned single-vineyard Barbarescos, Sori San Lorenzo, Sori Tildin and Costa Russi, the esteemed Barolos, Contesia and Sperss, the once contrarious Darmagi Cabernet Sauvignon, Sugarille and Renina Brunellos, and their trailblazing whites, Gaia & Rey (100% Chardonnay) Rossj-Bass (95% Chardonnay, 5% Sauvignon Blanc) and Alenti di Brassica (100% Sauvignon Blanc). The controversial, yet innovative use of French varietals is clearly on display in Gaja’s current profile.

Gaja’s unique style of wines defies classification as either ‘traditional’ or ‘modernist’; “Gaja is Gaja”, according to David Gleave MW and successful wine importer. Gaja is synonymous with risky gambles and bold changes of direction, as evidenced not only by its interest in white wines in a land of reds, but also the turn towards international grapes in a region devoted only to indigenous varieties. Angelo Gaja’s fearless approach was first witnessed with the introduction of Darmagi, made from Cabernet Sauvignon. Planted in 1978, Darmagi was the first Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard to be planted in Piedmont. The name Darmagi, first released in 1985, means "what a pity" in the Piedmont dialect, and said to be Angelo’s father, Giovanni’s reaction to the arrival of Bordeaux varieties in Barbaresco. Unlike his son, he was rather bound to traditional techniques with native varietals.

The most controversial decision in Gaja’s history was to sully the Nebbiolo grape with a small proportion of Barbara, meaning the three most famous Barbarescos were downgraded from DOCG (Denomination of Controlled Origin Guaranteed) to simply Langhe Nebbiolo. “Appellations are not a dogma. In my opinion, they have the same relevance as the winery’s brand,” exclaimed Angelo Gaja. The famous trio eventually returned to DOCG in 2013 when the wines would be produced as single variety Barbarescos once more, but this was a declaration of his confidence

The massive operation is now run by his two daughters, Gaia and Rossana, though Angelo still has the final say. When asked about how new ventures and strategies will be decided; his three children laughed, “He’ll decide.” The Gaja estate produces 18 different wines from 100 hectares in Piedmont, 118 hectares in Bolgheri and 27 hectares in Brunello di Montalcino. The vineyards are planted to both native and international varietals, including Nebbiolo, Barbera, Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. With nearly one million bottles produced annually, Gaja is one of the top producers in Italy, in terms of both quantity and quality. Quality is the estate’s main goal and does not hesitate to declassify entire vintages when they do not meet the extremely high Gaja standards (such as in 2003 and 2009).

What was once a humble 2 hectare plot in Barbaresco, has become a globally recognized brand, that exudes simple beauty, opulence, and elegance, a brand that reflects five generations of winemaking, that defies convention, demands global attention, and has become one of the most distinguished and omnipresent names in the world of fine wine.

Region Piedmont: Italian culture values the unbreakable bond we share with family and very few things showcase that connection quite like a shared meal. Therefore, it's only natural that wine would also take its place as an important cultural aspect. Fine Italian produce always goes well with a variety of dishes, and that makes these wines an incredibly popular choice among wine enthusiasts who appreciate a good get-together. The foothills of the Alps help define this region's significantly colder, continental winter climate, but during the summer, the conditions are similar to the region of Burgundy.

Flavor-wise, this region has a mind-boggling variety to offer. Not only is there a healthy selection of approved grapes to work with, but the soil often varies from estate to estate, letting every wine stand out. Expect to encounter powerful notes of rose petal flavor, spices, cherries, dried herbs, anise, and many more. Every bottle has a story to tell. Those of you with a tendency to hoard and collect fine wines will be especially intrigued, as Piedmont wines tend to mature extremely well, developing nuance and becoming more and more delicious as time goes on.
Subregion Barbaresco
Country Italy: Italy is renowned as one of the world’s greatest gastronomic havens; from certified Prosciutto di Parma to the sea-side seafood eateries on the island of Sicily. However, this epicurean experience could not possibly be as hedonistic without the ethereal combination of the country’s plethora of fine wines. It seems unfair that a nation should be able to boast, both, some of the world’s greatest cuisine as well as its greatest wines. Italian wine is one of the most sought after in the world, and has become the second most produced in the world, behind only France.



Stretching an impressive 736 miles from northern Italy to the peninsula’s southern tip, the country’s geography generates an enormous array of topography, climate and soil structure. This is an extremely important quality of its winegrowing and making industry which lays claim to nearly 550 different grape varietals, which all desire their own necessities, in terms of terroir and climate.



The still red wines of Italy truly characterize the nation’s vast and expansive terroir; Nebbiolo dominates Piedmont, where Barolo and Barbaresco reign king and queen of the region’s production. Hailing from Brunello di Montalcino in Tuscany, the rockstar Sangiovese grape has become synonymous with greatness. Vin Santo sweet wines have taken on a mighty feat of competing with the glorious wines of Sauternes, and of course, Prosecco. Prosecco, located in Trieste (northeast Italy) and its creation of luxuriously effervescent styles of wine has become Italy’s answer to Champagne. The Glera grape variety, which has become synonymous with the name Prosecco, is the main ingredient and is beloved in the appellation where the village of Prosecco’s name has become world renowned.



The blurred boundary between Italy and the countries of Slovenia and Austria, where German influence still resonates through Friuli wines. The prevalence of Riesling and other such grape varietals is high in this region and have become extremely popular on today’s market.



With nearly 702,000 hectares of grapevines covering the massive and diverse landscape, Italy’s annual average of 48.3 million hectoliters of wine production is second only to France in terms of volume and Spain in terms of hectares of vines. The country is vast and overwhelming when it comes to the culinary arts, but perhaps even this is overshadowed by its production of some of the world’s most sought after wines, whether the omnipresent Chianti to the highly collectible and sought after Amarone della Valpolicalla.

Type of Wine Barbaresco: A good Barbaresco traditionally conjures a perfume of powerful floral aroma, and massages your tastebuds with gentle violets and roses creating a juicy burst of cherry and truffle. If you decide to let the wine age, it can develop smokey, earthy notes that round out the experience beautifully. No one is left indifferent after tasting one of these masterpieces, we can assure you of that.
Varietal Nebbiolo: Nebbiolo is the superstar grape variety and driving force behind the top-quality red wines of northwestern Italy. The Italian winegrowing appellation of Piedmont is covered by a sea of Nebbiolo grape vines. It is the undisputed king of grapes in the twin hillside villages of Barolo and Barbaresco, where some of the world’s most coveted wines hail from.

Quality over quantity is the motto for this subtly powerful grape. A mere 5,500 hectares of Nebbiolo are cultivated around the world, of which, more than 4,000 are found in Langhe and Roero. The varietal has been growing here since the 1st century and has been called Nebbiolo since the 1200’s. Like most ancient grape varietals, there are many speculations as to its true origin, but what is certain is that in the hills of Langhe and Roero, Nebbiolo has found its ideal environment.

Unlike Cabernet Sauvignon which is a versatile grape, Nebbiolo has not thrived when planted in wine regions outside of northern Italy. Nebbiolo is more like the finicky Pinot Noir: difficult to grow and highly reflective of terroir. The varietal thrives on calcareous marl, a lime-rich mudstone that is found on the right back of the Tanaro River (home to Barolo and Barbaresco) where it grows best in its warm climate and ample sunlight. The growing conditions in the hilly areas of Barolo and Barbaresco are optimal and produce some of the most sought after wines not only in Italy, but in the world.

The Nebbiolo vine buds earlier than most grapes grown in Piedmont but harvested last. The berries do not appear until long after flowering, making it very susceptible to poor weather conditions. The name Nebbiolo is thought to have come from the Italian word for fog, nebbia, which is common during the fall when the local hillsides are covered in a ghostly haze.

The iron fist in a velvet glove, which is a witty slogan for the wine of Barolo, can aptly be used to define the Nebbiolo grape itself. The thin-skinned, light colored grape packs a punch, producing wines that are light ruby when young and fades to a pale garnet when older. This characteristic should not be mistaken as watery; wine produced from Nebbiolo is super concentrated and flavorful with high acidity and tannins. When properly vinified, the best vintages will last for decades.

Despite the challenges of this fussy grape, some growers in the “New World” are trying their hand at harvesting Nebbiolo. In South Australia young producers are making wines that are fruiter and less tannic than their Italian counterparts. This novel take on the Italian grape has prompted California, Chile and South Africa to begin small plantings of Nebbiolo.

The iron fist in a velvet glove, the undisputed king of Piedmont and the deceptively powerful Nebbiolo grape may be limited in quantity, much-coveted, nearly exclusive to Italy, demands aging and can sometimes command high prices; the wait, the price and the difficulty in finding it is rewarded with one of the greatest wines made from the mighty Nebbiolo grape varietal.

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