Mathias Guthmann interviewing Gaia Gaja, Foto: Tom Mettendorf
Gaia Gaja is one of the daughters of Angelo Gaja, the famous winemaker who revolutionised the italian wine-scene in the ’60s and ’70s years. Gaia is an ambassadress of italian wine, tireless she is travelling arround the world to promote their wines. I had the great opportunity to have an interview with her during the véritable 17, a spectacular wine fair, organized by the charismatic Uwe Warnecke. Since 7 years he manages it to bring great personalities of winemaking to St.Martin, a little but beautiful wine-village in Palatinate.

GG: Gaia, I’m well known for my musical descriptions of wine and food, in fact this is a good way to find the words that fit for the product. For example I wrote about the «Brillecart-Salmon, Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru», that this champagne dances through the nose like  a Viennese Waltz attended by fresh almonds, dry fruit and walnuts.

May I compare your «Barbaresco DOCG 2013» with the overture from Gioachino Rossinis Barbiere di Sivigla? This wine is so perfect and so elegant with this translucent colors and the balanced fruit, that it simply remembers me the absolute classical and subtile piece from the italian Master.
Or perhaps – while working on your wineyard or in the cellar – you will have in mind your own music?

Gaia: I love your comments, but I’m not an expert for music, so I can’t make a comparison. The 2013 Barbaresco is very joyful and so the fact that you compare it to the Barbiere di Sivigla is a great analysis. It is a Barbaresco full of energy, vibrancy, a lot of perfumes, it’s very delicate, a very good comparison.

Music and wine: What is important in music and what is important in wine? In the sense of rhythm we have the seasons and the work in the wineyard during the seasons, repeating it year after year. Although we talk about rhythm and balance in the wine, finally this rhythm connects wine and music, I see, there is a great analogy.

GG: Gaia, your father is one of the most important wine-makers in italy and maybe in the world. How did you get involved in the wine-making processes, was it rather natural or can we compare it with a Teacher-Student relationship?

Gaia: It took long time, step after step, really slowly to approach the real wine-making. You have to gain your own respect, you did not get it because your are the daughter of your father. You have to be liked, and when your are liked from your team the things goes close together, it took time! I worked with my father because I loved the family.

I loved this thing that I could bring forward the project and my dreams, I was involved since childhood, even from my grandfather. Little by little this project became mine, it was no more just a pleasure to carry out a project of a person that I love, now it was my project!

GG: We all know, that the personality of the winemaker makes the wine. Do you have a favourite vintage that – in your opinion – represents approximately your own ideas and dreams?

Gaia: I’m not the only one in the cellar, little by little I was involved in the main things, but in a familiy-business you cannot do all, makes no sense. Your are right: 2013 was the year when things changed, my sister and me became the acting persons behind the management.

When you are behind the decisions of your company, all what you do becomes a self-portrait, it is the same with wine. I feel that 2013 is the year reflecting more from my sister and myself.

GG: Personnaly I like the great Rieslings from the Moselle, do you have a favourite German wine?

Gaia: I like very much as a person and for her wines Theresa Breuer and I’m a fan of the «Maximin Grünhaus» Rieslings.

I’m not an expert in german wine, but I think, that the german wines a very underestimated in the world, a mistake of the german producers! They should go out into the world and show their wines. There are some outstanding products in Germany, they can age forever, the world is not drinking them as much as it should! Just go out into the world, find local importers, make the people know about your wine.

GG: Even possessing an astonishing knowledge about the wines of the worlds and their diversed descriptions, the work of a sommelier often stands on wobbly legs. This fact has the reason, that the combination of culinary and wine happens in a very complicated situation, regarding the human taste. Did you investigate the different tasteful moments we have, while degusting a wine together with a culinary meal?

Gaia: A difficult question. I think that today these things are a little bit more complicated than in the past, when we talked about  french wine with french food or german wine with german food or wine from Piedmont with food from Piedmont. Nowadays we must combine wine with Asian Food, with Indian Food, with Japanese Food, with complicated dishes. It’s really more then to combine White Wine with fish and Red Wine with meat.

We have to pay attention to the texture of wine and food, unfortunately this is not diretcly a part of the european culture, we often set the focus too much on the taste, but it’s the texture where the action is. Of course a tonic wine fits very good for a  greasy or creamy meal, and of course a very young Barbaresco fits this dishes too! A Tonic wine goes fine with a fat dish, but also with a Toro-Tuno Sashimi, we have to pay attention to the texture of the ingredients.

GG: What are your plans regarding winemaking in the next time?

Gaia: Oh, there are some beautiful news: This spring my father bought 20 hectares of land at the Etna in Sicily. Ok, there are more questions then answers now, the land is in 800 meters above sea level, we must take account of the climate change. The land is in the south, but weather is cool. There is a wine similar to the nebbiolo the «Nerello Mascalese», we will have the first harvest,  the project is planned for the next 20 years.The story gave a new youth to my father, he is very excited!

GG: So we wish you all the best for your projects Gaia, thank you for the inteview.

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über den Autor


Mathias Guthmann schreibt unter anderem für kulinarische Zeitschriften und den Schachsport. Seine Essays, Reiseberichte und Kurzgeschichten haben eine hohe Reichweite und werden in verschiedensten Fachmagazinen, auch international, publiziert. In der freien Wirtschaft berät der Autor eine Firma zu PR-Strategien.

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