|I met Angelo Gaja, the iconic producer of Gaja wines in Piedmont with wineries also in Bolgheri and Montalcino in Tuscany, in 2002. When I met the Man from Barbaresco, in 2003 at the Ca’Marcanda winery in Bolgheri and asked him if he had plans of buying more wineries, Gaja told me he had several offers from foreign producer to collaborate but he declined because he liked to have the vines always under his nose so he could monitor the grape quality.
While interviewing him at his winery in Barbaresco in June 2009, he said, ‘I am still getting offers every week but I still feel the same. Besides, now I am not that young. The kids have grown up. They have to decide. If they want to do it they can go ahead.’ He was then 69 years old, at an age where most men think of retiring. But he was focussing on shaping his daughters Gaia and Rossana who are now totally involved in the business along with younger brother Giovanni.
While reporting the Vertical Tasting of top-ended Gaja wine Sorì San Lorenzo 1971-2011 in November 2014, Antonio Galloni, the American expert on Italian wines, wrote, “Angelo and Lucia Gaja’s children, Gaia, Rossana and Giovanni, are now increasingly involved in the family business. Generational succession is the single greatest challenge facing Piedmont’s wineries today. If Angelo and Lucia Gaja can take their hands off their estate, to their children and give them the freedom to make decisions, they will succeed where so many others before them have failed.”
The succession seemed to be complete when the siblings brought back the IGT single vineyards iconic wines like Sori San Lorenzo into the DOCG Barbaresco fold with his blessings and Gaia Gaja so admitting.
Therefore it came as a surprise in April this year when, at the age of 77 and almost 50 years after taking reins of the family winery, Angelo announced stepping beyond the mainland Italy (both Montalcino and Bolgheri in Tuscany are at a motorable distance from his home in Barbaresco) and going to the volcanic Etna region in Sicily. And for the first time he decided to partner outside the family in a business venture when he chose to collaborate with Alberto Graci (pronounced Gra-chi) as his equal joint venture partner to buy vineyards and set up a separate winery.