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What our expert thought of Gaia, 'S'




about this wine About this wine
 
In 1978 the famous Chianti estate of Marchese Piero Antinori released the first vintage of Tignanello, the 1971.  A blend of the local Sangiovese with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, it wasn’t quite the first SuperTuscan – that honour probably goes to the all-Cabernet Sassicaia, first released in 1971 – but it was the first to be based on Sangiovese, aged like a top Bordeaux red in new French oak barriques.
 
It rapidly attracted a host of imitators.  These new-style reds wowed the English wine press, who dubbed them SuperTuscans.  They transformed the Italian wine landscape and led to significant changes in the regulations.  Today producers can include small amounts of Cabernet in their Chianti, and the quality-sapping white grapes that used to be a mandatory part of the blend are forbidden.
 
Chianti was perhaps the best-known Italian red at the time.  Greek reds have rather less name recognition, but the big two are Naoussa and Neméa.  Neméa occupies the north-eastern portion of Peloponnese – the large many-fingered peninsula forming southern mainland Greece.  The rolling Neméan hills even look a lot like Tuscany, but their climate is somewhat drier and warmer.  The main grape here is the native Agiorgitiko, and wines labelled with the PDO Neméa must be made entirely from it.
 
Inspired by Tignanello, leading Neméan producer Gaia decided in 2007 to begin producing a “SuperNeméan”, blending Agiorgitiko with a French variety and aging it in new French oak barriques.  This is the 2013 vintage of that wine, Gaia ‘S’.  The French variety they chose was not Cabernet from Bordeaux but Syrah from the Rhône, which is better suited to the Neméan climate.
 
It’s a blend of 70% Agiorgitiko and 30% Syrah, grown on the hillsides of Koutsi, the best-regarded subzone of Neméa.  Aged for 12 months in 225-litre French oak barrels from the famous Nevers and Alliers forests, it is then bottled unfined and unfiltered and given a further 5 months bottle-age before being released.
 
the tasting The Tasting
 
This is so dark that in the glass it looks black.  Only at the rim can the intensely deep ruby colour be seen.
 
The pronounced nose is spicy – cloves and black pepper – with very ripe blackberry and blackcurrant fruit.  These are backed by plenty of chocolatey oak.
 
Spices lead on the palate too, along with concentrated and complex dark berry fruits – blueberry, blackberry and dark raspberry – and a note of bitter chocolate.
 
This is full-bodied but not excessively so, especially for a wine at 14.5% alcohol.  There’s enough acidity to keep things fresh, but the structure is mostly provided by lots of wonderfully smooth, velvety tannins.
 
These lend a distinctly rocky, pencil-lead quality to the long spicy finish.  Despite a touch of alcoholic warmth this finishes dry. But not drying – there’s a finely-judged balance between the acidity and tannins here.
 
Assessment
 
This is a real crowd-pleaser of a red, with lots of everything: spice, fruit, tannin, alcohol and oak.  Yet it keeps them all in balance, displaying an elegance I didn’t expect in a wine at 14.5%.
 
I also didn’t expect a wine so clearly built for the long haul to be so enjoyable after only three years.  Those tannins will see it through a decade, but there’s no need to wait – it’s lovely now.
 
The super-smooth tannins and fruit intensity are hallmarks of Agiorgitiko, while the Syrah has contributed enough peppery acidity to the mix to bring it all into focus.  The results may be a little international in style, but then true superheroes don’t let borders or traditions get in their way of their mission.


Tasting notes

Appearance
clear very deep ruby - almost black
Nose

Intensity pronounced

Aromas spicy (clove, black pepper), ripe black fruit (blackberry, blackcurrant), oak (chocolate)

Development developing
Palate

Sweetness dry

Acidity medium

Body full, though not as big as expected (14.5%)

Tannins high, very velvety and smooth

Intensity medium+

Flavours spice, berry fruits (blueberry, blackberry, dark raspberry), bitter chocolate
Finish

Length long

Flavours mineral (graphite), spicy (black pepper), alcohol warmth but finishes dry
Other notes
Lots of everything save acidity, but great balance. Acid just enough to balance tannins & fruit.


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