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An Afternoon with Gaia Gaja

4 Dec

An Afternoon with Gaia Gaja 2015

Finally I’ve managed to share my thoughts on a very special & intimate afternoon with Gaia Gaja at Boccaccio Cellars earlier this year. A big shout out to Anthony D’Anna for organising such a delicious event and Gaia Gaja for being such a human hostess.

An Afternoon with Gaia Gaja 2015

Gaja is at once both one of the world’s wine icons and a controversial winery bucking “traditional wisdom” often being the trend setter rather than the follower.  For me, it’s a sign that the Gaja’s have passion, focus, and, that they are pushing the boundaries.

Over the last six months I’ve drunk Gaja’s wines from over 5 decades of production. One thing has been clear, they are evolving and pushing to make the best wines they can. This evolution has not been insulated from changes in the wine world. Historically, across the world’s greatest wine regions, think Barolo, Barbaresco, Burgundy, Tuscany, traditional winemaking has been interrupted by curiosity with the potential of new world winemaking techniques. Gaja has not been immune from this trend, use of high levels of new oak has being the most obvious example. Something I’m glad to say has been tempered in recent times.


Gaja has a long history stretching back to it’s very beginnings in 1859. The transformation from an largely unknown winery in a region, not valued by consumers to one of the worlds most famous wineries in a very special region certainly didn’t happen overnight.

Gaia Gaja shared with us the history of Barbaresco, the Gaja winery, the challenge of establishing recognition for the region and what the future holds. One thing is certain, the Gaja’s aren’t afraid of pushing against the rules, some rules are meant to be broken. They have had to declassify their Barbaresco from DOCG status simply because the rules don’t fit what they believe is the best way to make their wine. With a nifty slight of tongue, Gaia, refers to this as a reclassification. A simple example being that they tend to pick early before the permitted time for a DOCG to pick. Why because higher vine density, lower yield per vine, flavour ripeness earlier, better natural acid etc. If they waited they could have DOCG, but, they would not be giving their fruit the best opportunity to shine.

Below is a 20 minute video exert from the discussion.

What Separates Exceptional Wineries?

When you look at the great wine producers of the world they often have many things in common. Two of those being passion and continuity.

Passion just makes sense. Continuity well that’s a challenge. Good vignerons are always looking at their wines and vineyards, trying to make them yummier, healthier, more balanced, often by doing less, but, doing it better. Having the knowledge of the past, interrogating trends to find often simple ways to improve is critical. Seeing a vineyard in a cool years, hot years, observing the little patch of vineyard that is not performing and nurturing it. Some wineries employ precision agriculture with high tech imaging of vineyards, others, the eyes of trusted colleagues who have worked with them for decades. These eyes come to know each site, each vine and tend to them like they would a child. This philosophy has given them an intimate understanding of their terroir.

This is precisely the reason Gaja only employ permanent staff. Like many of the world’s great estates Gaja shifted from buying fruit to supplement production to buying and controlling great sites. In the early years as the Gaja Estate expanded, they were forced to purchase old run down houses with vineyards. Over time these have been restored and are now offered rent free to their staff. One of Gaja's Staff Houses Offered Rent Free

The Challenges for the Future

There’s one trend that everyone in the wine world has had to address recently. Every time I catch up with a grape grower or winemaker I always ask what are you working on. Increasingly the response is “Managing climate change”.

Gaia explains the impact of climate change as helping them achieve greater consistency from year to year. The challenge being resultant higher alcohol and pH, with lower acids, fuller riper wines. Now instead of worrying about getting fruit ripe, they worry about sugar accumulation racing ahead of flavour and tannin development producing out of balance wine. On the upside it has opened up opportunities, the grape bunch stalks are now ripening allowing their incorporation into wine, adding tannin, spice and perfume.

The focus has been on rebalancing in the vineyard to meet this challenge. They’ve put money behind their beliefs and are adapting to change by experimenting. They’ve hired half a entomologists (insect gurus) & horticulturist (plant gurus and more) seeking to disrupt their thinking. Not necessarily taking direction from them, but, pushing themselves to use this knowledge combined with their wisdom, gleaned from over 150 years of tending the land to develop their own approach.

Biodiversity – Flowers, Bees, Trees

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Looking after soil health, moisture levels and temperature.

They have replaced direct fertilising using manures, with composting. Composting stalks, vine cuttings, used grape skins and manures allows the worms they’ve imported from America to further process organic waste and add nutrients through their microflora. An approach that has been used world wide with success. Just like your very own garden they’re mulching to cover crops to insulate the soil from the heat of the sun and retain moisture.

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They’re looking to take a natural, yet, pragmatic. Considering technology, balanced with minimal intervention.  Perhaps one of the most radical changes at least in terms of effort has been changing the row orientation at some sites in order to reduce direct impact of sun on the vines.

Nebbiolo Rossato – Not Nebbiolo.


My lasting though was that it takes for a vigneron to understand their sites. Sometimes it takes just as long to convince the consumer of what the vigneron is trying to achieve.

A couple of Wines from the Session

Gaja Wine Tasting at Boccaccio Cellars by Paul Kaan

Costa Rusi had a real elegance vs the masculine Sori Tilden masculinity. Again highlighting the difference small differences in vineyard location can make to the personality of a wine. Both sites are in the image below. Sori Tildin top right. Costa Rusi lower left.

Gaja Vineyards Sori Tildin Costa Rusi Barbaresco Italy

Next Up: Roberto Voerzio

Test Driving the Durand Corkscrew for Dodgy Corks in Old Bottles

6 Apr

The Durand Corkscrew Test Drive by Paul Kaan

Opening old bottles of wine with dodgy corks can be a challenge even for the most experienced wine hound. Good hardware can make a big difference. The Durand combines the Ah-So, prong opener, with the screw of a waiter’s friend. Check out the video review below. It’s not cheap, if you have a lot of old wine under cork it’ll make your life a bit easier.

Alternatively you can go the Power Drill or Coat Hanger (end of post) method of opening your bottles.

*I have no affiliation with Durand and paid in full for the corkscrew.

Waiter’s friend (top), Ah-So (middle) & Durand (bottom) with 1979 Laira Cabernet Malbec.

Three Corkscrews Waiters Friend Ah-So  Durand by Paul Kaan of Filthy Good Vino

Respect for History, for Tradition, for Wisdom marked by Silver Hair. Bartolo Mascarello, Langhe, Barolo.

21 Feb


Serendipity, well Twitter actually, delivered a new friend to my iPad. We share the common passions of Filthy Good Vino and Barolo. A tweet soon followed that included a link that took me to a Documentary on the Langhe.  The Langhe is a region of spectacular beauty in Piedmont, Northern Italy.  It is home to some of the great Artisans of the culinary world. Think unctuous cheeses, white truffles, in addition to being home to the Founder of Slow Food, Carlo Petrini. These are not producers of product by recipe on mass. They are custodians of land, animal and vine pursuing excellence in their chosen field.

The link took me to footage of one such custodian, Maria Teresa of Bartolo Mascarello, who shared her philosophy on the production of Barolo.  Made only from Nebbiolo grapes, Barolo at its best, is without question, one of the worlds most unique and greatest wines. Befitting wine of such calibre it is also one of the most challenging wines to produce. Bartolo Mascarello hold some of the most prized lands of the Langhe. Maria Teresa’s dedication, her sense of obligation, of duty to preserve the essence of these lands is clear.

Archival footage of her late father demonstrated wisdom that can only be earned by the passage of time and was marked by a head covered with silvery grey hair.  His clarity of thought and wry humour in pursuit of an authentic expression of his vines was unclouded by new winemaking technologies that have often confused the wines of others choosing to employ them in Barolo. It is interesting that so many of the great winemakers of the world reflect that it is just as critical to understand what not to do, as what to do, as you guide a grape from the vineyard to the bottle.

Although I have yet to taste the wines of Bartolo Mascarello, five peeps who live and breathe for the wines of Barolo, peeps, who combined have visited the Langhe on an enviable number of occasions, had only unanimous praise for the craft of Maria Teresa and the the exceptional expression of her wines. I can’t wait to try them!

If you enjoyed this snapshot of a Barolo custodian, check out the Langhe Doc for other stories of Langhe Artisans.

“Stop the Wine-ocide” Kaani 2012 – My Deep Dark Secret + a Wine Tip

12 Jul

kaani 2012 Stop the Wine-ocide Feature Image Filthy Good Vino

I can keep my Deep, Dark Secret No Longer. I’ve Witnessed and Particpated in the Murder of TOO much Filthy Good Vino!


Yep, I regularly open more than one bottle of sensational wine at a time.  Let’s face it who’s happy with less than 3 glasses of different Filth AKA Wine in front of them.  End result left overs!  By the next day, when my mouth’s as dry as a Cocky’s Cage and I’m looking for something to pour on my Weaties, the vino that was an absolute PLEASURE FESTA the night before is just a shadow of its former self.  No longer the vibrant, beautiful, creature that had passed my lips only hours earlier, but, sad, tired, withered up and DEAD! Murdered by evil oxygen.

After a few too many bottles of Filthy Good Vino going to waste, I had a revelation. I was responsible for the MURDER of the ones I loved.  Some of you might say I’m a bit soft and just need to add a spoonful of concrete to the mix, keep on training … pass me that waiter’s friend please… harden up and finish the bottle(s) on the night.

In my defence I offer the following:

    1. Those of you that have shared a glass, plate and table with me will know, I’m half Chinese, scored the Asian vino-genes, and, with them a genetic inability to quickly process the bi-products of metabolising alcohol.  Just watch as I go bright red at the sound of a cork popping!
    2. Some times, on school nights, the Mrs and I just feel like a glass each and not a whole bottle.

I have a solution! It’s not some crazy wine preserving system with a vacuum or pressurised Argon to “remove” or “replace” the air in the bottle. Best thing is, it’s free and you’ve probably got all the kit you need floating around your home.  Check out the video above. After you’ve watched it, if you feel like donating to “Kaani 2012” to help me drink more Filthy Good Vino and stop the insanity, get in touch or drop around with a tube of Filth.

I’ve been meaning to share this for some time.  A recent post by La Donna Del Vino inspired me to take action. Check out La Donna Del Vino’s Blog Post “In the Face of a Deluge of Red Wine” for some other solutions to this horrific crime!

kaani 2012 Stop the Wine-ocide Feature Image Filthy Good Vino

Video Wine Tip: Broken Cork Stuck in Your Bottle of Filthy Good Vino! Use a Coat Hanger!

8 Jul

Wine Tip Getting a Broken Cork out of a Wine Bottle with a Coat Hanger

Wine Tip Getting a Broken Cork out of a Wine Bottle with a Coat Hanger

The Best Tool EVER for Getting a Broken Cork out of a Bottle of Filthy Good Vino