Gaia Gaja – a brilliant evening at Esterhazy Palace
November at our estate got off to a great start when Gaia Gaja, daughter of Italian wine legend Angelo Gaja, held the crowd spellbound in the sold-out Haydnsaal at Esterhazy Palace. Oenophile guests from Austria and elsewhere made the pilgrimage to Eisenstadt for this distinctive, one-of-a-kind tasting, some travelling from as far away as Hungary, Germany, Switzerland, Russia, Serbia and Italy.
The event was arranged and organised by the Esterhazy winery, in close cooperation with Dr Josef Schuller, Director of the Austrian Wine Academy and Austria’s first Master of Wine.
At the opening press conference, addressing collaborative work with the Austrian Wine Academy, managing director Willi Klinger of the Austrian Wine Marketing Board – and former export manager for the Gaja Estate – also took this opportunity to sign a sponsorship contract with Penny Richards from the Institute Masters of Wine in the magnificent ambience of the Haydnsaal.
The initial flight of the set tasting consisted of three wines from the Ca’Marcanda in Bolgheri, followed by a flight of Brunellos from Pieve Santa Restituta, and then the high point of the event, Ms Gaja’s Barbaresco and the two single-vineyard Barolos, Conteisa and Sperss.
One ‘ringer’ was thrown blind into the mix, a Blaufränkisch Ried Schildten from Esterhazy, but was easily recognised by most participants because of its varietally typical fruit profile. It was not only the comparison of vineyard sites and philosophies that proved interesting, but also the contrasting vintages: a young and lively Ca’Marcanda 2015 was shown alongside a 2007er with perfectly softened and mature tannins, while the vivacious Brunello Rennina 2001 was paired with a Brunello Sugarille 2004 that showed pronounced tertiary aromas.
It was also quite engaging to listen to Ms Gaja‘s insights regarding what it is like to take over and manage such a renowned and rich-in-tradition family business of this size and scope. In addition to Gaia, her sister is also involved, and certainly her father as well. With native Italian charm, Gaia talked about her relationship with Angelo Gaja, and how important decisions regarding work in the cellar and vineyards are discussed via personal letters, serving to mitigate the emotional element that can sometimes flavour conversations. Willi Klinger, who for many years worked as Gaja’s export manager, was able to loosen things up on this score with some amusing anecdotes...
Following the tasting came a four-course gala dinner for 120 persons in the ornate Gartensaal of Esterhazy Palace. Award-winning chef Jacqueline Pfeiffer’s menu was accompanied by wines from Esterhazy winery and top Gaja reds such as Promis, Sito Moresco and Dagromis.
A further highlight followed on Saturday in the Kalandahaus at Esterhazy winery, in the form of an exclusive master class presented for members of the Weinakademiker. In this event, six wines were analysed in detail with Gaia Gaja – content of the discussion focused primarily upon the latest developments in cultivation of the vineyards. Ms Gaja’s recent decisions in this regard were quite noteworthy, in that she chose not to work with viticultural advisors, but rather to engage an individual from outside the specific realm of winemaking – an expert in general botany – who brought new ideas and approaches to the process.
Two rewarding days of tasting were capped by a short luncheon at the estate; we said our goodbyes to Gaia Gaja, and she headed off toward her next master class – in Shanghai.
Picture: Eva Ketely