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Gaja 1998 Alteni di Brassica

The cork on this wine was a little soggy and had a little bit of mold on top, which made me think “Uh oh, it’s gone.” Then I smelled it and had the same thought. But now I’m not sure. The wine is clearly oxidized, but in a way that old white wine can get. At first, it kind of smells like aged white burgundy, but then a greeness comes out in the back — is it grapefruit? white pepper? grass? Is it just too weird. Make that over the top.

The wine comes from Piedmont-groundbreaker Angelo Gaja, the first in Barbaresco to age his wine like Americans, in small barrels of new oak — OK, the French do that, too — instead of botti, the traditional large, 600 to 650 liter, old oak barrels in the Piedmont cellars. The smaller barrels, known as barriques, are 225 liters. Boom, new world Barbaresco, and soon, Barolo was born.

This wine, which is 100 percent sauvignon blanc, gets the same treatment and undergoes malolactic fermentation. ML or malo is standard for reds and commonly used for chardonnay to give creaminess to that unaromatic variety. So malo for sauvignon blanc is unusal. Winemakers tend to make their sauvignon blanc as an expression of the fruit, rather than the winemaker’s art.

Back to the wine. Tasting note after the jump.

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