The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Expert Picks: Antinori and Gaja

Posted on | November 2, 2015 | Written by Michael Adler | No Comments

Michael Adler 5.29.15Let’s face it: Italy isn’t the first place that comes to mind when we think of world-class Chardonnay. It can be easy to overlook Italian Chardonnays in favor of white Burgundy; however, you shouldn’t. Italy’s winemakers make more than a few outstanding Chardonnays, and I urge you to approach them with an open mind—I promise you won’t regret it. Today I’m focusing on a pair of Italy’s most outstanding Chardonnays that are crafted by two of Italy’s most legendary winemakers, Angelo Gaja and Antinori.

Inspired by the wines of Meursault, Antinori’s Cervaro della Sala Chardonnay is a perennial IWM client favorite, and it’s one of Italy’s finest collector whites. Coming from Castello della Sala, the Antinori family’s estate in Umbria, every vintage of this wine impresses with its balance, structure, and stunning evocation of Umbrian terroir. Like the ancient winemaking family of Antinori, Angelo Gaja has had an enormous impact on the development, evolution and modernization of winemaking in Piemonte, and Gaja used his Chardonnay to introduce the region to unfamiliar palates in the ‘70s. It’s no surprise that these two winemakers are responsible for two of Italy’s most prized and collected white wines, and if you haven’t yet tried them, here are two bottles to enjoy.

Antinori Cervaro della Sala 2013 Chardonnay $54.99

Antinori makes this wine in a Burgundian style that is reminiscent of a traditional Meursault, and the ‘13 Cervaro is texturally stunning; crisp and clean while at the same time round, lush and luxurious. 2013 was a relatively cool growing season, ideal for Chardonnay grapes, and this beautiful wine coats the palate in waves of citrus, orchard fruit, herbs and stony minerals. While Cervaro is immensely enjoyable when young, this bottling will also benefit from some additional time in bottle and continue to evolve for another 8 to 10 years.

Gaja 2011 Chardonnay Gaia & Rey $239.00

Angelo Gaja is a towering figure in modern Italian winemaking. Gaja’s wines are unapologetically modern, seeing time in new barrique and receiving temperature-controlled fermentation, yet they are still highly representative of their respective terroirs, and this improbable balancing act makes them so astonishingly good. Gaja’s top-of-the-line Chardonnay is always an impressive effort; this ‘11 Gaia & Rey Chardonnay is a concentrated, opulent wine that’s seen some time in wood. 2011 was a ripe vintage and this wine is more accessible in its youth than other recent bottlings, yet it has the necessary structure to age another 10 to15 years.

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