1990 Barbaresco Angelo Gaja

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Average critic rating : 95.5 points



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 touch 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 rounder and softer than the 1989, with perhaps just a touch 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. Anticipated maturity: 2010-2025. Angelo Gaja’s 1989s and 1990s are simply glorious. Gaja is frequently criticized, especially in Italy, a country that has an uneasy relationship with success of any kind. To be sure, Gaja likes to mix things up with views that are at times perhaps unnecessarily provocative. Prices have always been a point of contention among the estate’s detractors, as even Gaja’s father Giovanni sold his own wines at prices considered to be astronomical more than 50 years ago. At the end of the day, though, the only thing that counts is what is in the glass, and the simple truth is that these wines are utterly mind-blowing. Angelo Gaja had at least one big advantage vis-a-vis his neighbors. Gaja began working full-time at his family’s winery in 1969, and was followed a year later in 1970 by oenologist Guido Rivella. By the time 1989 came around Gaja and Rivella had been working together for nearly 20 years, and were perfectly positioned to make the most of these two historic harvests, which they certainly did. Gaja was so far ahead of his time that there are plenty of producers in Piedmont (and Italy) that still haven’t caught up to the groundbreaking wines he made 20 years ago. I have had many of Gaja’s 1989s and 1990s recently in less formal settings and have never been anything less than deeply impressed. Readers fortunate to own these bottles should be thrilled. For his 1989s and 1990s, Gaja carried out the malolactic fermentations in stainless steel and aged the wines for a year in French oak followed by a year in cask, an approach he employs today. Although Gaja’s wines are often flashy upon release, these bottles attest rather eloquently to the glacial aging that is the hallmark of the house style. One of the very few critiques I can make is that Sori San Lorenzo and Sperss were far less consistently profound twenty years ago than they are today. If there is one truism with Gaja, it is that one only needs to taste the Barbaresco to understand the quality of the vintage. When the Barbaresco is truly great (as it is in 1997, 2001, 2004 and 2007) all of the other wines will almost certainly be profound. Antonio Galloni, Wine Advocate # 187.



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. eRobertParker.com.July, 2014

The wines of Angelo Gaja have been at the forefront of Piedmont for many years. An ancient family domaine established in the 1850s, the business was revolutionised by Angelo when he joined in 1961, bringing methods and a philosophy that were decades ahead of their time.

Taking full control of the family business in 1970, Gaja has been a pioneer ever since, and his Barbarescos are the famous wines of the region. Indeed you could say that Gaja put Barbaresco on the map.

More of a modernist than many of his neighbours, Gaja’s wines are polished, pure and precise. In youth they can often be inpenetrably faultless; with age they are peerless. The single vineyard wines – Costa Russi, Sori Tildin and Sori San Lorenzo cannot be called Barbaresco despite their vineyard sites: a dash of Barbera in these wines, which adds just a touch of plumpness to the Nebbiolo, breaks just one of the numerous rules imposed on the winemakers of Piedmont that Mr Gaja views as an impediment to making his extraordinary wines.

A genius for sure, Angelo Gaja cannot be faulted for what he puts in the bottle. Robert Parker

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