The 1989 Barbaresco smells like freshly cut roses and sweet, aromatic spices. This impeccable, young Barbaresco reveals exceptional elegance without even the faintest hint of oxidation. As it sits in the glass, the wine’s inner perfume continues to emerge in a dazzling display of class and elegance. Simply put, this is extraordinary juice?.and those are not words I use lightly. Anticipated maturity: 2010-2030. 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.
The Wine Advocate Score: 96/100
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