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People Wine & Drinks

Champion of Piedmont

epicure 28 June 2011

Angelo Gaja, who single-handedly raised the Barbaresco grape to cult status, is on his next mission to transform this region’s wine landscape.

In a previous life Angelo Gaja must have been a diplomat, or an actor even.

The truth is, folks enjoy his company and appreciate his opinions. Recently I met up with Angelo again at a luncheon in VinItaly. I was seated amongst other press delegates—imagine my surprise when Angelo, the guest of honour, made his way from the VIP table to shake my hand. We had met a month earlier, he recounted. Before long, name cards were being exchanged and every Asian delegate at the table was vying to have his photo taken with him. Suited in his trademark black designer threads, Angelo might have been mistaken for a celebrity. Certainly, in the eyes of wine lovers, he is the star and de facto ambassador of Barbaresco.

Pre Angelo days, Barbaresco was the plain sister. Wine drinkers wanted only to court Barolo, the handsome brother. It’s no wonder. Historically, much of Barbaresco wines were sold in bulk, having no identity of its own and no merits attributed to it; it was even used to make Barolo. Only in 1894 was Barbaresco recognised as an area in 1894, and it became a DOC in 1966.

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