Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Mixing the Grape with Literature

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Mixing the Grape with Literature

Article excerpt

MAKING good pairings of wine and food are goals of both chefs and winemakers. How about wine and books?

Angelo Gaja, one of the great names in Italian wine, was in town recently, and while most winemakers are accompanied on the road by a sales representative, Gaja had his biographer as a traveling companion.

Gaja's wines are outstanding, even though they're always expensive and often in short supply, and his techniques have had him in the forefront of Italian wines for many years. The Gaja story is now a book, "The Vines of San Lorenzo," by Edward Steinberg, and the book is a perfect match for the wine. Of course, Gaja will have to make his famed Barbaresco again next year.

In many respects, Steinberg has written several books in one, all in a breezy style that imparts information in an easy-to-swallow manner, like Gaja's own Vinot, a fruity red wine much like a Beaujolais. Steinberg tells the Gaja story, but he also writes about the history of Italian wine, from vine to bottle. He does so in a charming manner, letting the winemaker explain his work and passing the information to the reader in anecdotal, non-technical terms.

Steinberg follows Gaja from October 1991 to September 1992 watching the vintage grow to harvest and fermentation. Gaja is a man with great reverence for his family; a high-powered, fast-moving man willing to gamble; and obviously a man of strong passion and tenderness. Steinberg tells the story well. Gaja himself, in his early 50s, speaks passionately about wine and grapes, a family business in the Barbaresco region of the Piedmont for most of this century. It was he who broke from traditional wine-making and -selling techniques and who sharply reduced his grape crop to create wine of better quality.

The Gaja vineyards grow cabernet sauvignon, merlot and chardonnay grapes, as well as Italian classics like nebbiolo, barolo and barbera. When he first ripped out nebbiolo to plant cabernet sauvignon, the grape from which all great Bordeaux is made, neighbors acted as though he were demented and was treating the land sacreligiously. …

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