Introducing New Gaja White Wines: A Symphony of Vibrant Aromas and Vivid Flavors

By | 16 March 2024

Some fine new releases from the famed producer.

By Susan Hulme MW

Susan Hulme MW visits Alta Langa to taste through the latest whites from Gaja, including the first from the new vineyards and winery.

“We see a future here,” says Gaia Gaja, reflecting on the purchase of 30ha (75 acres) of hazelnut groves and woodland in Alta Langa in 2015. “We were looking for cooler places, [and] we realized that we had this jewel on our doorstep.” Gaja’s Alta Langa estate is less than 15 minutes’ drive from

Barbaresco, but the altitude of the new vineyards rises to 2,100ft (650m). For every 330ft (100m) above sea level, the temperature drops by nearly 2°F (1°C), so it is significantly cooler than Gaja’s vineyards in Treiso (1,000–1,150ft [300–350m]) or Serralunga (1,150–1,250ft [350–380m]). Gaia adds, “We needed to find areas where technological and phenolic ripeness can happen in a balanced way and at the same time.” They were fortunate to find 30ha all in one piece, with the benefit of many different exposures, at an altitude above 2,000ft (600m).

Gaja opted to cultivate Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc due to their familiarity with these grape varieties. Their intention was to incorporate some of the fruits into their highly reputable white wine portfolio, which consisted of Gaia & Rey (Chardonnay), Alteni di Brassica (Sauvignon Blanc), and Rossj-Bass (Chardonnay/Sauvignon Blanc). Should climate change continue along its current course, the Alta Langa estate may transition into Gaja’s primary source of white wines. However, rather than the predominantly sparkling wine of Alta Langa, their focus would remain on still wines.

In early December 2023, I had the opportunity to taste wines alongside Gaia, Alessandro Albarello, a senior Gaja enologist, and Marco Penna, their winemaker, in Alta Langa. The setting was their newly constructed cantina in Trezzo Tinella, which opened its doors in August 2023. This tasting was unique in that we opted to taste blind, concentrating solely on the discoveries in the glass, particularly any differences stemming from the terroir rather than the winemaking process. 


The initial trio of samples provided were Sauvignon Blanc from the 2023 vintage. Even though these wines were not yet finished, the diversity they exhibited was intriguing. The first wine presented less intense and less definite aromas, but compensated with a fuller, rounder, more luxurious palate. I guessed this was produced in a warmer site, possibly a Barolo vineyard. However, it originated from the Masué vineyard in Barbaresco, which Gaia confirmed is warmer than their Barolo site. The second wine was more forward and lean, exhibiting a striking acidity, which indicated a cooler location. This wine was produced in Vivaldo, their new north-facing vineyard surrounded by forest in Serralunga, Barolo. 

The third wine showcased intricately rendered scents of fresh, green apples. Upon tasting, the acidity was bright and juicy yet well integrated, eliminating any harshness. This wine, sourced from the Serra Pini vineyards in Alta Langa, demonstrated an intensity in its aroma and flavor profile that was brilliantly vivid. Despite anticipating a sharp, crisp taste with a hint of green fruit due to the high altitude of the vineyards, I was pleasantly surprised by the soft acidity. Our initial assumption pointed towards higher succinic acid levels developed during fermentation as the reason for this gentleness, but testing thus far has not confirmed this speculation.

In our blind tasting, we sampled three Chardonnays from distinct locations; Campo Grande in Serralunga, Chardonnay Serra Pini from Alta Langa, and the Giacosa vineyard in Treiso. It was the Alta Langa Chardonnay that surprised us again with perfectly balanced acidity and a pleasantly chalky, satisfying finish.

We concluded the tasting with the Alteni di Brassica Sauvignon Blanc from the years 2019 to 2022. The 2019 was absent of Alta Langa fruit, the 2020 contained 10 percent, and the 2021 and 2022 both contained 20 percent. The most recent wines, those from 2021 and 2022, showed higher intensity, energy, luminosity, and a longer finish.

Gaia interesting noted that while they did not have a clear plan in the beginning, it became clear that altitude was crucial. Although the primary goal is to achieve a creeping, slowed down ripening process that brings the physical and phenological maturation of the fruits closer in time, the decision to elevate has bestowed the added advantage of generating more vibrant and vivid aromas and flavors and an overall balanced taste profile. </p

Tasted in Trezzo Tinella, December 2023

Alteni di Brassica 2019

A youthful, very pale, silvery lemon color, with delicate aromas of lightly spicy, citrus fruits soaked in tonic water. Lime, lemon, and orange mingle on the nose and begin to change, becoming more quinine-like, flinty, and minerally. On the palate, the flavors are bright and vibrant citrus, with a very appealing, lingering chalkiness on the finish. The acidity is nicely integrated, and there is a considerable range and complexity of flavor. Five percent of the fruit comes from Alta Langa, and 80% of it was fermented in large botii. 2023–33. | 94

Alteni di Brassica 2021

This is the premier vintage where 20% of the fruit was sourced from the new Alta Langa estate, Serra Pini. With a majority of 80%, this wine was fermented and matured in larger botti, 5% was prepared in tonneaux and the remaining in stainless steel structure. The wine bursts ontoes the scene with a flourish of vivacious green aromas – the freshness reminiscent of newly cut grass, and the distinct elderflower flavor, very dramatic and typical for Sauvignon Blanc. It features a delicate, flinty or metallic-like undertone, a sign of reduction, perfectly aligned with this vibrant, full-throttle style. The palate is a combination of vibrant flavors of green pepper and zesty lime, the crunch of Granny Smith apple, and the spice of bitter lemon. Though the acidity is wild and mouthwatering, it feels mature and well integrated into the wine, perfectly balanced by a smooth, rounded texture. It is a wine filled with brightness, teeming with vibrant punchiness. Tasting this with Gaia Gaja, she aptly called it a bit punk in its style. This wine truly delivers a punch. Enjoy from 2025–35. | 95+

Gaia & Rey Chardonnay 2019

At a cylical year of four, this wine is starting to show early signs of maturation both in its color and aromatic blend. It boasts a medium-deep, golden-toned lemon appearance that’s pleasing to the eyes. On the gustatory sense, gentle notes of honey, cream, and a touch of butter blend harmoniously with spice and nut fragrances. The wine is round, soft, and laced with honey – the texture is luxuriously silky but amicably contrasts with bright apple and crunchy green undertones, and a hint of vanilla. It has a slight reminscent of Chablis-like, but there are riper scents that seem to originate from a warmer, sunnier location, in contrast to its taste. The wine was fermented and matured for 18 months – larger botti accomodating 60%, 40% in tonneaux and barriques, and 30% underwent the malolactic fermentation process. This wine is pure and doesn’t contain any Alta Langa fruit. Enjoy from 2023–35. | 95

Gaia & Rey Chardonnay 2021

Despite being three years younger than its 2019 counterpart, the 2021 vintage exhibits an incredibly youthful, pale-green lemon hue. The aromas it exudes are vibrant, translucent and distinct. The taste is characterized by a creamy, leesy flavor and fullness, coupled with the fruitiness of bright green apple, zesty lemon and a dash of chalky minerality. The 2021 feels heavier in texture and density compared to the 2019. Its tight, taut and young quality is impressive, as is its ripe green flavors, similar to very ripe green apples, with a smidgen of peach. The acidity is fresh, not green, and is exquisitely blended in. The wine concludes with an appealing minerality that reminds one of salty seashells. It holds an energetic, bright style, complemented by fabulous level of flavor concentration and depth. Truly impressive. The 2021 Gaia & Rey was fermented and aged in wood for a year and a half, however this time 70% of the process utilized larger oak botti, with merely 30% of the wine aged in tonneaux and barriques, and as much as 60% of the wine underwent malolactic fermentation. Tasting both the 2019 and 2021 Gaia & Rey one after the other leisurely at home, there’s no question that the 2021 appears more vibrant and invigorating. Again, it’s important to note that there is no Alta Langa fruit in this wine. Its peak period in terms of taste would be between 2025 and 2045. | 96

Rossj-Bass 2022

The Rossj-Bass 2022 starts off with an enticing fragrance of orange flowers, orange zest and a freesia-like spice. It’s incredibly charming and appealing to the nose, maintaining a mildly fragrant yet persistent scent. When tasted, it showcases contrasting tangy, crunchy gooseberry and green-herb flavors, housed within a medium-bodied wine with refreshing acidity and a moderate finish. The 2022 Rossj-Bass features 10% fruit from Alta Langa, with 40% of the wine fermented in stainless steel, 35% in large botti, and the remaining in tonneaux and barriques. Its best years for consumption would be between 2024 and 2028. | 92

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