In July 2016 the 37th Annual l’Eté du Vin Guest of Honor was Gaia Gaja.
With its population of 650 within 7.6km2, the tiny Italian village of Barbaresco is barely on the radar of most Hong Kong residents. Now, Asia’s most discerning wine drinkers are becoming familiar with the obscure commune, thanks to the charismatic eldest daughter of the Gaja wine family.
Italian wines have had a presence in Hong Kong for two decades but have only gained predominance in recent years. A combination of increasingly sophisticated drinkers venturing beyond the classic French Burgundies and Bordeaux, and Italy’s wine makers doing more self-promotion, means the Italians are getting more space in Asia’s wine cellars. But they have taken their time.
“The Italians always arrive late and it is no different with wine,” announces Gaia Gaja merrily over lunch. As part of the fifth generation of the Barbaresco-based wine family that runs Gaja Winery, 33-year-old Gaia has recently taken over the international management of the business.
She has big boots to fill. Her father, Angelo Gaja, nicknamed ‘The King of Barbaresco’, is credited with revolutionising the Italian wine industry. During the 1960s and 1970s he made a name for himself by controversially defying his father (and tradition) by planting French grape varieties in his vineyards. Up until then, Italian vineyards grew Italian grapes, period. But Gaja knew that unless he used international accessories, practices and plants in his wine production, Italian wine could never reach its potential. The move drew Piedmont into the modern world. As Italy’s most famous wine producer, Gaja’s gamble has paid off.
Photos from the 37th Annual l’Eté du Vin Events