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May 15, 2014

Gaja Sperss and Conteisa ‘Barolo’ 2010 New Release

Gaja

One of the most exciting releases of the year is arguably the biggest name in Piedmont, Gaja: we are delighted to offer their brilliant 2010 Barolos! This is made more thrilling by virtue of the wines coming from the 2010 vintage, which is shaping up to be one of the greatest of the modern era. The growing season provided wonderful conditions for winemaking, with cool weather and late-ripening, resulting in wines with vibrant aromatics, beautifully defined fruit and delightful balance. The wines will have the ability to age for decades in bottle, yet due to a combination of very healthy grapes at harvest and a new paradigm in Barolo winemaking the 2010s can provide immense pleasure now. One thing it is certain, 2010 is a collector’s vintage; Gaja is the epitome of the region and their two leading Barolos are already proving hugely popular throughout the global market.

Gaja Barolos
Gaja’s leading wines are not classified as Barolos; Angelo Gaja the prominent owner is vocally opposed to following the rules of the region’s authorities, instead Gaja adds the grape Barbera to the blend and uses the classification Langhe DOC. As a result of this recalcitrant stance Gaja produces two wines that are akin to Super Barolos; Sperss and Conteisa. They are two of the greatest ‘Barolos’ in the world, combining wonderful ripe and concentrated fruit, with incredible structure and delicacy.

Gaja Conteisa 2010, 6x75cl - £540 IB
‘Conteisa’ is Piedmontese for ‘quarrel’ or ‘dispute’, named such in memory of the Langhe dispute between the bordering villages of Barolo and La Morra, who both fervently fought over the grand cru vineyard called Cerequio, where Contesia is grown. At the end of the late medieval period the vineyard was permanently annexed by the village of La Morra.

This cru vineyard is particularly special due to its exposure and attitude. It is south-west facing which encourages wonderful grape ripeness. It is the highest of any Gaja vineyard at 370 metres altitude, meaning that the grapes here blossom incredibly early, waking up first after the winter due to the spring air that rises up to its vantage point. The vines are also the last to be picked in the summer, due to the altitude the vineyard’s temperature remains cooler than those on the mid and lower slopes, while the cooler winds slow down the vegetal cycle of the plant. These wonderful conditions bookend the growing season, allowing the vines to have some of the longest hang times in Piedmont, meaning the grapes arrive to the master winemakers with wonderful balance, ripeness and health.

The vineyard also boats a wonderful diversity of clones, resulting in a blend made up of 92% Nebbiolo and 8% Barbera which are co-fermented and aged together for 12 months in barriques, followed by 12 months in large oak casks.  In fact La Morra soils tend to combine compact blocks of sand, from marine origins, balanced with clay; they are also thought to be the same age as the soils in Barbaresco. As such Gaja’s Conteisa combines the characteristics of Barolo; structure, earthiness and power, with those more akin to the moniker of Barberseco; more floral, perfumed, less austere and more delicate.

Antonio Galloni, 95 points
The 2010 Conteisa is a wine of extreme finesse. Flowers, sweet red berries, hard candy, mint and licorice all emerge from the glass, supported by silky, polished tannins. Today the 2010 impresses for its fabulous, crystalline purity and striking overall balance. The style is aromatic, lifted and all about elegance. The 2010 has only recently been bottled. I won’t be surprised if it is even better in another few years. Conteisa is mostly Nebbiolo with a dollop of Barbera, from the Cerequio vineyard in La Morra.

Gaja Sperss 2010, 2010 – £580 IB
In 1961 Angelo bravely decided to stop buying fruit from other growers in Barolo in order to standardise quality, however it was inevitable that this would result in many years without any Gaja Barolo being released to market. In 1988 Gaja purchased a 30 acre vineyard in one of Serralunga’s best areas, this ended 30 years of Gaja’s absence from Barolo production. Angelo affectionately named it ‘Sperss’, which is Piedmontese for ‘nostalgia’. This name pays reverence to the winery and the generations that fashioned it.

The vineyard is found on the eastern appellation of the great village of Serralunga d’Alba, where the soils date back to Helvetian era. The soils has plenty of tightly packed sandstone, which produces a bigger style of wine, with the defining Serralunga flavours of rose petal, tar, earth and mushroom. The blend is made up of 94% Nebbiolo and 6% Barbera and is aged for 12 months in barriques followed by 12 months in large oak casks.

Gaja’s world-beating Conteisa and Sperss are classified as Langhe Nebbiolo DOC, but for all intense and purposes they are one of the finest examples of what these great villages can achieve. Sperrs perenially lends itself to powerful flavours and structure, while Conteisa balances this with greater perfume and delicacy. In most vintages Gaja struggles to produce more than 1,500 cases of Conteisa and 2,500 of Sperss, allocations are difficult to secure, particularly in great vintages, which the 2010 unequivocally is. We advise collectors to secure cases on release, particularly as Will Lyons of the Wall Street Journal candidly posits that the 2010 “could be the last affordable vintage of Barolo to hit the market.”

Antonio Galloni, 95+ points
Dark red fruit, savory herbs, menthol, tobacco and smoke are some of the many notes that take shape in the 2010 Sperss. A wine of unusual translucency and nuance, in 2010 Sperss is supremely refined and less bombastic than is often the case. The 2010 shuts down quickly in the glass and its best days lie many, many years ahead. Today, though, I am quite struck by what appears to be a subtle yet noticeable change in direction at Gaja.

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