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Gaja, pioneer of the winemaking industry, makes its debut at DFWE NYC

Gaia Gaja speaks with J'nai Gaither about the venerable Italian estate, Italy's love affair with New York City and what she's looking forward to at the Decanter Fine Wine Encounter NYC this June.

One of the most iconic names in all of Italian wine is Gaja .

The estate is located in the Barbaresco area of ​​Piedmont and has a five generation-tradition of winemaking. It is a winery that has been at the forefront of innovation in Italy, as it was the first winery to introduce small oak barrels to its aging regimen, to produce single-variety wine in Italy, and to use Bordeaux varieties in its lineup.

Gaja was started by Giovanni Gaja, a grape grower, in the 19th century. His great-grandson, Angelo Gaja, currently helms the estate and is its patriarch. But by no means does he run the estate unilaterally. He uses the vast expertise of his children, Rossana, Giovanni and Gaia, to inform the winery’s decision making and ensure its future. His daughter, Gaia, in particular, is his confidant. She is Gaja’s ambassador, acting as the face of the brand for a new (and always devoted) generation of discerning wine drinkers.

At this year’s Decanter Fine Wine Encounter  (DFWE) in New York, Gaia will be on hand at the Gaja masterclass tasting through the winery’s extensive range. She’ll lead an exploration of the terroir that makes it so unique, and what’s new and next for the brand. But first, we caught up with Gaia for a short chat in advance of her appearance at the DFWE.

What makes New York a great city for wine?

New York is a great city; it’s very competitive and ambitious in every sector, including wine. In New York, many professionals are at the top of their game, leading and creating new trends.

New York is on an international stage. Here, new fashions and new philosophies of thought are discovered. It is a city that inspires but is also open to new things and to be inspired. This has always been the relationship between New York and Italy.

What are you most excited to see at the DFWE?

This is my first time attending the DFWE, so I don’t really know what to expect! But it will be a moment of sharing between true wine lovers.

I am looking forward to seeing old friends and making new friends.

Why do you think Americans love Italian wine? 

The US has been the most important country in affirming Italian fine wine production. It was the first country that recognised the dignity of Italian wines and encouraged Italian artisanal producers to do better. It can be attributed to the massive immigration of Italians to the US that favoured an appreciation for Italian cuisine and fine Italian products. Still, it is also the work of the US press.

In the 1970s and 1980s, inexpensive, bulk-produced Italian wines dominated imports (from 1980 to 1985, Lambrusco Le Riunite was the #1 imported wine in the US with 11 million cases per year). But despite the idea that Italian wine had to be cheaper than the cheapest French wine to sell, some wine journalists also realised that there was a growing number of fine wine producers charting their own course in Italy.

It has been fundamental. For example, the work of an American journalist, Burton Anderson, who in 1980 released Vino, the first book entirely devoted to Italian fine wine. It was a milestone for fine Italian wine. Importers, collectors, sommeliers, as well as other journalists, took Burton Anderson’s book as an inspiration. They soon started to realise that Italy was a world to be discovered.

The US is a historic market for us, where we developed deep connections and relations over 45 years of importing our wines.

How is Gaja targeting a new generation of wine drinkers?

New generations are pulling away from convention and are buying with more awareness of the fundamental values ​​of a brand.

Considering that we have no social media presence and not even a website, we are not really targeting the new generation from a communication point of view. Still, I think our values ​​are unchanged; we have always stood up for an artisanal approach, a ‘thinking different’ attitude, originality and a sense of place, with a long-term view.

What do you think is so enduring about Italian wine?

Italy can be a strong voice against the homogenisation of taste. It is the bearer of artisanal values, and its wines can be ambassadors of humanism.

Essential information

Decanter Fine Wine Encounter NYC

Date: Saturday 10 June 2023 from 11am to 5pm

Location: Bay Room at Manhattan, 28 Liberty Street, 60th Floor
New York, NY 10005 

Price: Grand Tasting tickets from $225 + sales tax (Save with Group tickets) | Masterclass tickets from $245

 Buy tickets today

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