A brief meeting with Gaia Gaja today, daughter of Angelo (Her comment: "Yes, it is a democracy at our winery up to a certain point. And then it is not!" This was said with great affection, of course.) We tasted the 2001 Barbaresco and the 2001 Sperss; tasting notes below. But I particularly liked Gaia's comment on the difference between Barbaresco and Barolo—both wines made from the Nebbiolo grape: "To me Barbaresco is more ethereal. It's more about flowers and sweet spice—anise and cumin. Barolo has a perfume that is more licorice, more leaves and earth, mushrooms and undergrowth. That sweet spice is why people say Barbaresco is more feminine and Barolo more masculine."
That, to me, sums up the divide in an appealingly concise way. Maybe Gaia Gaja should become a writer. If she decides she wants to leave her role as heir-apparent to what is one of the most famous and respected wine estates in Italy, that is. Personally I'd advise against it.
2001 Gaja Barbaresco ($175) An ultra-pure note of red cherry liqueur runs through this, both in aroma and flavor; very silky, though not in the least lacking for structure; underneath and around and above all that fruit lies a cloud of darkly floral elegance that just says, "Now that is great Nebbiolo."
2001 Gaja Sperss ($215) This single vineyard wine was once labeled as Barolo, but since 1996 has been labeled simply "Langhe," because of the small percentage of Barbera in the blend. Nevertheless, if it looks like a duck...you know the rest. Scents of wild berries, coffee, and a non-oak woody note that I always think of as dry bracken; harder and more formidable than the Barbaresco but gorgeously balanced, ending on dense, fine tannins.