Unstoppable, succinct, to the point. Angelo Gaja is the most famous, charismatic winemaker in the world, one of the few who has always believed in the potential of Piedmont and Italian wines, and in their ability to compete with (and, in his case, beat) the most famous labels from other countries, above all France. He is an ambassador of Italian wine all over the world, as a result of his courage, his refusal to take no for an answer, and his incessant desire to learn more about his trade.
Angelo is 100% Piedmont, born in 1940 in Barbaresco, at the heart of the Langhe area, but his approach has something in common with Anglo-American pragmatism, in which action is preferred to words. Perhaps these aspects of his character, transferred to his vineyards, are those that have enabled him to reach such unprecedented success in Italy and on the world markets in which quality wines are appreciated. Today, Angelo Gaja is the most famous winemaker in the world, the man who succeeded in giving extra impetus to Italy's wine industry, attracting the attention of connoisseurs and the media from all over the globe. His contribution has proved pivotal in changing the image of Italian wine from straw-covered flasks and demijohns to prestige vintages of absolute prestige.
The reputation of Nebbiolo as the principal grape for making great Barbaresco vintages reached its height in 1996, when Gaja decided to release the famous wines Sorì Tildin, Sorì San Lorenzo and Costa Russi from the DOCG system (Controlled and Guaranteed Designation of Origin), repositioning them as 'Langhe Nebbiolo DOC.' This gave him extra flexibility in formulation, enabling him to return to local traditions in which small percentages (under 10%) of other grapes – such as Barbera and Dolcetto – are added in order to enhance quality and taste.
In 2009, Angelo Gaja celebrated the 150th anniversary of the company's foundation. Gourmets and wine-lovers from all over the world were impressed by the quality of the event, in which meticulous attention was dedicated to details, with many links to contemporary art. It was held at Barbaresco Castle, which has been carefully restored, and has become a symbol of the family's business. In this setting, Angelo described the company's story, in his characteristically straightforward style with no trace of rhetoric: 150 years of constant effort dedicated to producing great wines.
Gaja's unique family history began in 1859, when Giovanni Gaja, Angelo's great-grandfather, founded Cantina Gaja. From then on, five generations have shared his aspiration for producing great wines, and the family succeeded in bringing Barbaresco into the small, select company of prestige labels. The company's status is not hard to assess, considering its export statistics that place it as number one on the markets of 52 countries, above all the U.S.A. Today, Asia accounts for 15% of Gaja's exports, and the lion's share is absorbed by China, "which has great potential, a market that is growing faster than the others, faster even than the United States," says Angelo.
Today, Angelo Gaja continues to operate as a grower-winemaker, utilizing exclusively his own grapes from the company's 100 hectares of vineyard in the Barbaresco and Barolo areas. But his interests have expanded further afield: in 1994 the family acquired their first property in Tuscany, Pieve Santa Restituta in Montalcino, 27 hectares producing two Brunello di Montalcino labels, Rennina and Sugarille, and, since 2005, a third Brunello without a specific indication of the vineyard.
In 1996, he purchased another property in Tuscany, Ca’ Marcanda, at Castagneto Carducci, 100 hectares of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Sangiovese, and making the wines Pròmis, Magari and Camarcanda.
Angelo is assisted by his wife Lucia, who works on distribution; by their daughters Gaia and Rossana, and their young son Giovanni. He still finds time to transmit his experience and charisma to audiences in Italy and worldwide, always willing to talk to people interested in the story of his company and its unique approach to quality wine.