1997 Costa Russi Angelo Gaja

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Average critic rating : 94.0 points



The merits and faults of the 1997 vintage have been debated endlessly. Some people love the wines for their rich round fruit, others find the wines atypical and overly ripe. My own feeling is that the vintage is simply uneven, and that there are exceptional wines that capture the best of the vintage and there are overripe, unbalanced wines that are by comparison much less complex. Without a doubt the1997 Gaja wines from the Barbaresco zone are among the very best wines of the vintage. I recently had the opportunity to taste the 1997 single-vineyard wines from the Barbaresco area: Sori Tildin, Sori San Lorenzo and Costa Russi. All three are stunning, complex wines of great elegance and class that evolve beautifully in the glass, revealing layer after layer of flavor. The wines also share a youthfulness and freshness that suggests that they are in the very early stages of their development. While certainly enjoyable now, I wouldn’t touch another bottle for several years and hope to have the patience to wait well beyond that. Note: While the base Barbaresco bottling was not a part of this tasting, I have tasted that wine on a number of occasions and it is also worth seeking out. The wines were tasted blind. Costa Russi and Sori Tildin are made from parcels within the Roncagliette vineyard while Sori San Lorenzo is produced from the Secondine cru, all of which are in the Barbaresco commune. Vinification is the same for all three wines: fermentations last for 15-20 days. The wines then pass into barriques for the malolactic fermentations, where they remain for a year. The second year of wood aging takes place in large casks. Since the 1996 vintage, the wines contain around 5% Barbera grapes used to balance acidity. 1997 Gaja Langhe Costa Russi—Dark ruby in color. Clearly the most approachable of the wines, the Costa Russi is a luscious and intense wine showing generous flavors of ripe dark cherries, toasted oak, roasted espresso beans, cassis, tar, licorice, mint, and truffles. 94 points/drink 2007-2017. Antonio Galloni, In the Cellar # G1.

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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