THE GAJA FAMILY
Named for his grandfather, the son of winery founder Giovanni Gaja, Angelo Gaja began working at the family winery in 1961 after completing studies in enology at Alba and Montpellier. (He would later earn a degree in economics at the University of Turin.) An indefatigable traveler, Angelo often credits his importing business — which gave him unprecedented access in his visits to wineries — for his expansive knowledge of the world of winemaking. Inspired by contemporary and traditional winemaking approaches in France, in the 1960s he began to apply his experiences to the family winery. He introduced barrique aging, hybrid French bottle formats and longer corks, and clonal and massal selection in the vineyard. In the process, he single-handedly established Barbaresco as one of the great appellations of the world. His electric, charismatic presence and often poetical ruminations on the nature of fine wine make him one of the most respected and beloved figures in the wine industry today.
In 1994, Angelo Gaja purchased the historic Pieve Santa Restituta estate in Montalcino. In 1996, the family also purchased the Ca’ Marcanda estate in Bolgheri as part of its quest to bring its expertise and experience in the production of world-class wines to Tuscany.
After completing a degree in economics at the University of Pavia, Gaia Gaja spent two years in the wine industry in San Francisco before returning to Italy to begin working with her father. She remembers fondly how a bottle of GAJA 1989 Barbaresco, shared with her by her parents’ friends in San Francisco, inspired her to return home to Italy and accept her father’s offer of a position with the winery. Today, she is involved in every aspect of her family’s business, and she very clearly shares in her father’s energy and charisma. When not shuttling between the family’s properties in Piedmont and Tuscany (Montalcino and Bolgheri), she travels abroad, serving as the winery’s top ambassador in the United States, where the gentle Northern Californian cadence of her English only adds to her already contagious charm. The winery’s Gaia & Rey, first released in 1983, is named after Gaia and her great-grandmother, Clotilde Rey, the great matriarch often cited as the anchor in the truly epic story of this family of winemakers.
The 1992 vintage in Langhe was not a good one; “A disaster,” in the words of Angelo Gaja. “We declassified completely.” However, on the heels of disaster, came a blessing. In February 1993 the family welcomed a son, Giovanni. The younger of Giovanni’s two sisters is 12 years older than him, and he jokes that as a child it was like he had three mothers. Growing up in Barbaresco, he loved spending time in the vineyards, and in summers earned €5/hour—money he always saved—helping with the bottling. Building on a degree in economics and management earned at Milan’s Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in 2015, he is shadowing his father at the winery, gleaning wisdom that only Angelo Gaja possesses. He is eager to increase his experience with time abroad, as his sister Gaia has been doing for over a decade. Beginning in 2017, Giovanni spent a year as a fine-wine specialist in New York City and returned permanently to Barbaresco in 2018. As a member of the fifth generation, he will help guide the family winery—founded a century and a half ago by his great-great-grandfather Giovanni Gaja—into the future.