Winter closes in. For sad psychological reasons, I now don jackets or sweaters to enjoy chilled whites. I suppose a red will not hurt. Also, we have guests and pizza for dinner. So, a modern Italian seems apt. I rummage around in my crawl space. Why not open an $100 Chianti? Erm….no.
I have lost all grip on reality. My job allows me to try and collect fancy, expensive things. The cost to retail has become my reference point. A wine that costs a shop $25 ends up $33 to $40 on the shelf for the unwashed masses. So all I remember is that I spent $25. Or worse, I was probably given it.
So how do I impress guests but not blow it? Enter Gaja.
No, really, Gaja. Yes, a walk through Gaja on wine.com lists eye-watering prices: $90 Vermentino, $235 Barbaresco, $500 single vineyard nebbiolos, even a $500 Langhe, (go cry here). But Angelo Gaja certainly has earned it.
Born in 1940, Angelo Gaja, a fourth-generation Piedmontese winemaker, took over the family business and flipped it on its head. He brought in 225 liter, new French oak barriques and planted the first Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc in the Piedmont: giving his dad a heart attack but launching prices in the international market. He with daughter Gaia Gaja converted to Biodynamic farming and natural winemaking.
Yet, a Gaja does exist for the rest of us. In 1996 Gaja bought his second Tuscan property called Ca’Marcanda (“place of endless negotiations”, because it took forever to acquire) located in Castagneto Carducci in Bolgheri near the coast. 150 acres now grow a sliver of Sangiovese but French grapes dominate: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Syrah.
For around $45, we can touch royalty’s robe. 55% Merlot, 35% Syrah, and 10% Sangiovese ferment separately and then combine in the new year to age in partially used French barriques for 12 months.
Gaja, Ca’ Marcanda, Promis, Toscana Bolgheri Italy 2013:
So, with pizza and good company, how is it? The APPEARANCE looks a clear, moderately deep ruby red. AROMAS smell warm, young but promising, with ripe plum, tart red cherry, resin, cola nut, and cracked pepper. The PALATE feels smooth and even at first, then medium acid and touchy tannins tighten up the plumpish medium body.
Gaja’s 2013 Promis is sleek, modern, delicious, and easy but remains Italian enough with a serious edge and structure that merit a few hours’ decanting or a few years’ cellaring. The plump Merlot core is complimented by Syrah’s spice and Sangiovese’s structure. It is pizza perfect, but a meaty pasta or grilled meat would fly nicely. It is very good (4 of 5) and a steal for $45 or less.
Dang. Ok. I failed. So $45 is still hardly an inexpensive daily wine for most of us. I will work on it.
The first bottle of this wine was their 2000, at a restaurant that I have had Gaja Sperss 1991. I jokingly asked the chef/owner if this was an illegitimate son of Gaja and he told me to try a bottle and if I didn’t like it, there would be no charge, we ended up with a second bottle, and the owner sold me a six pack of it and had it put in my trunk before we left for the evening. Still an awesome wine and it has aged very well.
Fabulous! What a fabulous way to discover Gaja’s side project. Moments like that are what get me through the tougher days in this business.
I am just a humble amateur, but I do enjoy finding some great wines and the stories that go with them.