The 1997 Gajas Revisited: Costa Russi, Sorì Tildìn, Sorì San Lorenzo

The merits and faults of the 1997 vintage have been debated endlessly.  Some people love the wines for their rich round fruit, others find the wines atypical and overly ripe.  My own feeling is that the vintage is simply uneven, and that there are exceptional wines that capture the best of the vintage and there are overripe, unbalanced wines that are by comparison much less complex.  Without a doubt the1997 Gaja wines from the Barbaresco zone are among the very best wines of the vintage.

I recently had the opportunity to taste the 1997 single-vineyard wines from the Barbaresco area:  Sorì Tildìn, Sorì San Lorenzo and Costa Russi.  All three are stunning, complex wines of great elegance and class that evolve beautifully in the glass, revealing layer after layer of flavor.  The wines also share a youthfulness and freshness that suggests that they are in the very early stages of their development.  While certainly enjoyable now, I wouldn’t touch another bottle for several years and hope to have the patience to wait well beyond that.  Note:  While the base Barbaresco bottling was not a part of this tasting, I have tasted that wine on a number of occasions and it is also worth seeking out.  The wines were tasted blind. 

Costa Russi and Sorì Tildìn are made from parcels within the Roncagliette vineyard while Sorì San Lorenzo is produced from the Secondine cru, all of which are in the Barbaresco commune.  Vinification is the same for all three wines: fermentations last for 15-20 days.  The wines then pass into barriques for the malolactic fermentations, where they remain for a year.  The second year of wood aging takes place in large casks.  Since the 1996 vintage, the wines contain around 5% Barbera grapes used to balance acidity.

-- Antonio Galloni