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Delhi Wine Club
Lifetime Achievement Award for Wine Enthusiast Angelo Gaja

Posted: Monday, 09 November 2015 15:30


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Lifetime Achievement Award for Wine Enthusiast Angelo Gaja

Nov 09: Barbaresco-based ‘Prince of Piedmont’ has been selected by the American magazine Wine Enthusiast as the recipient of the ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ as part of the Wine Star Awards whereas the sparkling wine producer Ferrari in Trentino has been declared ‘European Winery of the Year’, giving Italians at least two more reasons to cheer, says Subhash Arora who has visited Ferrari and all the three wineries owned by Angelo Gaja who has been an inspiration for several years

Click For Large ViewI met Angelo Gaja first in 2002 in Vinitaly when I had accidentally walked to his otherwise full-house seminar on Bolgheri region in Italy and Tasting of wines from his new Tuscan coastal winery Ca’Marcanda. In a small way, he has also been a factor in the successful performance chart of Sula. Rajeev Samant had introduced Sauvignon Blanc in 2000 in India and it was a success. In 2002, he flew to Vinexpo Japan and tasted it with Angelo Gaja who was one of the exhibitors at the Vinexpo (it was only later that Hong Kong was chosen as the permanent venue for the alternate year biennial event outside Bordeaux).  Angelo had like the wine for its uniqueness and even placed a couple of trial orders that boosted his confidence and image at that point of timeline.

After that first meeting of mine with him in Verona, Angelo presented me a book ‘ The Making of a Great Wine: Gaja and Sori San Lorenzo ‘89 by Edward Steinberg. This was a true master-piece built around the iconic wine Sori San Lorenzo ’89 vintage but in fact it took a detailed look into the viticulture, oenology and the philosophy adopted by Angelo Gaja that has made him a high quality Brand that he is today. During the global meltdown when I met him and asked him his reactions he was very clear that they would not reduce the prices, keep the quality up and ride out the recession-which is exactly what he did. Today he is back well on track and has never looked back, earning the same respect and following as before.

When he was approaching 70 years of age couple of years ago, I asked him about his retirement and succession plans and how he could keep so young and energetic. He smiled as usual and said, it was work and passion for quality in wines that always kept him young and effervescent and he had no plans of retiring ever.  He did not discuss his succession plans though both his daughters Gaia and Rossana are now working full-time and taking some load off his shoulders.

‘It is impossible to talk about the Renaissance of modern-day Italian wine without mentioning Angelo Gaja. Trailblazing, creative and influential, during his half-century career, Gaja has been a fundamental force in ushering in the New Age of Italian wine and in raising its image around the world,’ says Kerin O’Keefe who is Wine Enthusiast’s Italian face and covers the Italian wine segment for the magazine.

A terroirist to the core and a firm believer of artisanal wine making, 21-year old Angelo joined the family business  in 1961 after finishing his study in Enology in Alba. As the book describes it, his father had already bought precious and exquisite parcels of land, inspired by his own mother who was a school teacher but knew the value of good location and vineyards. He has improved the winemaking practices and revolutionized some of the processes since then.

But when Angelo took over in 1969, he took drastic steps to improve quality. He went for improving the vine growing techniques including shortening the pruning and reducing yields which was unheard of in Italy at that time. Many established growers even ridiculed him, including a few heated debates with his own father. He started experimentation with French oak barriques and in 1978 released the first Barbaresco aged in both barriques and traditional, large Slavonia casks.

He shocked the existing Barbaresco winemakers including his own father when he planted Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay in the late 1970s to show that international grapes could excel in Langhe’s extraordinary growing area,” he says.

He was not too happy about the Appellation rules and came out with powerful, ageworthy  and elegant wines by using about 5-10% of the grapes not allowed by the appellation and had to ‘leave’ the appellation Docg and settle for the non docg labels. His Single Vineyard wines have a finesse, structure and astronomical high price since he started producing them in the 1970s. Since then he has motivated many winemakers to follow that path.

But what has made Gaja a true icon has been his passion to make Italian wines as top class wines and carry the image internationally. A couple of years ago he was a special invitee speaker at the World Wine Symposium at Villa d’Este where I go almost every year. He was speaking about the Italian wine industry and how to improve the international image that it deserved. He spoke so eloquently, passionately but fast in Italian (though he speaks English fluently) that the translators raised their hands and requested him to slow down if he wanted them to translate properly.

A well-deserved recognition that perhaps could have been awarded when he turned 70 but with a cupboard-full of awards he has already received since then, it would have given him time to organize space for more awards like this one. Tanti auguri e congratulazioni a Angelo Gaja!

Ferrari- European Winery of the Year 2015

I had visited the winery in Trento about 7-8 years ago when I met Camilla Lunelli and a couple of her cousins and who I met later as well at various international forums including India when one of them came to India looking for a distributor and finally signed up with Amit Goel-owned Rad Elan in Gurgaon. Their Rose sparkling has been a personal favourite that I even recommended when it was being sold for under Rs. 800 a glass and Rs. 3950 a bottle at the Oberoi Gurgaon.

It appears that Ferrari is on a roll. A few months ago, it was also voted as the Best Sparkling Wine Producer in Italy  Ferrari Sparkling Wine Producer of the Year
Interestingly, when I had organised a 10-Champagne lunch at the Hotel Oberoi recently to celebrate the Global Champagne Day, I had slipped in a Franciacorta and Ferrari Rose Brut in the line-up to gauge the reaction of the Delhi Wine Club members. It had found place at the top half of the line up- ahead of 5 other champagnes, indicating the penchant for the Indian palates for the stunner.

Click For Large ViewIt was founded in 1902 by Giulio Ferrari who had gone to Champagne to study the Methode Champenoise process and came back to reproduce in Italy. He felt that the hilly area of Trentino in North Italy would be most suitable for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir as the main grapes. The high-altitude vineyards at around 400-750 m height surrounded  by the beautiful Alps give strong day and night temperature differences allowing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to develop rich aromas that set them apart and yet make fresh and elegant sparklers.

The small production quickly earned him recognition. In fact Ferrari won a gold medal in 1906 at the International Exhibition in Milan, according to Ferrari had no children and he sold the winery to friend Bruno Lunelli, a wine shop owner in Trento,  in 1952.  Lunelli family has been running and expanding the business keeping the same high quality standards. Ferrari maintains the leadership in the Italian sparkling wine industry that churns out hundreds of millions of bottles of bubbly, including Prosecco and Moscato d’Asti.

Both the Ferrari Brut and Ferrari Rosé are available in India. Watch out for Giulio Ferrari Riserva del Fondatore, the flagship sparkler from the progressive winery whose vineyards have since gone organic. Ferrari has become a benchmark for the Italian sparkling wine industry.

DelWine congratulates Angelo Gaja, Ferrari and other winners who received accolades from Wine Enthusiast. For details on other awardees like Michael Mondavi- Person of the Year and Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon-Winemaker of the Year etc., visit

Awards will be presented at the Wine Star Awards Dinner on Monday, January 25, 2016 in New York City

Subhash Arora

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