In October 2007 I was in Bolgheri, Tuscany’s coastal pole of excellence, a Super Tuscan Eldorado that started with Sassicaia, spawned Ornellaia, Guado al Tasso, Le Macchiole, Tua Rita et al.
Piedmont’s Angelo Gaja was late to the game but we visited s his new Ca’Marcanda winery in awe, our jaws scraping across the polished concrete. This was no small project and no small expense…at least 20 million and that was just the buildings.
Gaja’s wines have become increasingly mysterious to me; they are fiendishly expensive, universally brilliant but for everything that I can see, increasingly unsold.
His legendary Piedmont wines, Sperss, Costa Russi, Sori Tildin and Gaia & Rey, all of which I have drunk have been fantastic, but at upwards of 250 euros a bottle I no longer see where those top wines are going.
And in Tuscany? He produces three wines Promis (Merlot, Syrah and Sangiovese), Magari (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc) and Ca’Marcanda, the flagship wine (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc). He also has a domaine in Montalcino, Pieve Santa Restituta.
And the mystery? In ten years, I have never sold a single bottle of any of the three cuvées. I have never seen anyone but an importer offering them. And even back then, gazing at the amazing and costly architecture, we could not help wondering whether Ca’Marcanda was not Gaja’s first false step – a huge white elephant and a vanity project too far.
We left with a book on Angelo Gaja’s Piedmont winery , specifically a legendary vintage of an erstwhile Barbaresco, “The Vines oif San Lorenzo” and a bottle of wine, 2001 Magari. It was slick, quick and ever so slightly impersonal. I remember feeling our noses slightly put out of joint as our “tasting” cosnsted of a very small glass of the not so great 2002…
2001, however, was a fantastic vintage in Tuscany, similiar to 2004 and 2006. Last night we were invited out and I was looking for a bottle to take…I picked it up and just for the sake of form cross-checked against Parker’s website: the curse of death – 89 points and “old”.
Which just goes to show one thing, critics frankly don’t know what they are talking about. The wine was alive and kicking. No fatigue, beautiful colour, good grip with soft and finely tuned tannins. It was not over-oaked and that oak is clearly French. Indeed, if you put in a blind tasting it could have passed for a Bordeaux hands down – whereas 2004 Petrolo Galatrona despite my past impression of brilliance is never going to pass as a Pomerol.
Magari is an Italian vernacular term meaning perhaps. So just perhaps, magari, inch’Allah, Gaja’s Tuscan venture is making money and selling wine.
In any event, certo, they make a pretty good bottle.