Gaja Ca’Marcanda Magari 2020


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“The 2020 Bolgheri Rosso Magari is Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot, with the Franc in a leading position at 60% to 65%. Born in a vintage that saw plenty of sunshine and luminosity from the Tyrrhenian Sea just a few kilometers away, this edition of Magari is especially round, voluminous and fleshed out. The 2020 vintage is considered quite toasty elsewhere in Tuscany, but in fact was more contained here along the Tuscan Coast thanks to steep diurnal shifts between day and nighttime temperatures and a cool spring. The year also saw enough rain at the right moments to assure stress-free fruit ripening. The wine opens to dark blackberry and sweet spice, with a very polished and silky side to robust fruit concentration. Drink: 2022-2035. 94 points

Olive trees with gnarled limbs and wispy tips surround the Ca’ Marcanda winery in Bolgheri, Tuscany. The thick planting density of these ancient trees creates a buffer of quiet and shade that surrounds a modern building made with neutral colors and natural materials. This deliberate landscape, with each tree trucked in from a special nursery, is poignantly simple yet radically effective in transporting you to another world. This is Angelo Gaja’s exclusive world on the Tuscan Coast. “When we designed the winery and the grounds, I specifically had this olive grove in mind,” says the legendary Italian vintner dressed in a bluish-gray T-shirt that reflects the colors of the surrounding trees. Olives are loaded with symbolism across Mediterranean cultures. They are an eternal link between humankind and earth, and the trees’ long life span makes them a metaphor for resilience. That theme is central to the Ca’ Marcanda identity, a winery that this tenacious Piedmont-native started in 1996 as a challenge to himself. With great personal expertise and generations of family know-how acquired in the Langhe growing Nebbiolo and the other grapes of Piedmont, Angelo Gaja could not resist the allure of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Syrah in sunny Tuscany. Ca’ Maranda makes three red wines and one white. The top-end red is Camarcanda (with the red label) that features Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, although past vintages saw a large component of Merlot in the blend that has since been removed. The wine with the black label is Magari, and it is made with Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. Merlot was featured here too, but it was subsequently removed. I visited with Angelo Gaja and his daughter Rossana in September of last year. We tasted the 2020, 2010 and 2004 Bolgheri Rosso Magari and the 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2013, 2007, 2003 and 2001 Bolgheri Rosso Camarcanda. In addition to those wines, the estate makes an IGT Toscana wine called Promis (with the blue label) with Merlot, Syrah and Sangiovese. And it makes a white wine called Vistamare (with a turquoise label) with Vermentino, Viognier and Fiano. In Piedmont dialect, a “ca’ marcanda” is “a deal that never closes.” It keeps you frustrated and waiting. Angelo Gaja had his sights set on this exact property to build his Tuscan dream winery, but the previous owner was not interested in selling. Following at least a dozen unsuccessful acquisition proposals, Angelo lay in bed thinking to himself: “This is a certified ca’ marcanda.” Resilience paid off and eventually Gaja would secure the deed to what is today 80 hectares of vines. “I could think of no better name for the project,” he says. He built a state-of-the-art winery that would become a model for his neighbors. Ca’ Marcanda is located not far from the Via Bolgherese at the heart of the appellation. The area has a mix of soils, mostly limestone-based with clay and stones. Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc are planted near the winery. Fruit for the Camarcanda comes from those plots, and the surrounding areas supply fruit for Magari. At its founding in the late 1990s, the estate was committed to Merlot, but with an ever-changing climate, the early-ripening grape is slowing being replaced. It once accounted for 50% of the vineyard plantings but today makes up 17%. Merlot is currently only used in the Promis blend. “With climate change, wines risk being too extracted and heavy,” says Angelo Gaja. “It must be the style of the winery to go in the other direction for more streamlined and elegant results.” The wine label design features a graphic composition that recalls the iconic cypress-lined road that cuts inland from the Tyrrhenian Sea to the village of Bolgheri. The appellation allows for a Bolgheri Rosso and a Bolgheri Superiore category for red wines. However, both Camarcanda and Magari are Bolgheri Rosso wines. “I prefer not to use qualifying words like Superiore, Classico or Riserva,” Angelo Gaja explains. Resilience paid off in closing this so-called “ca’ marcanda” and Angelo Gaja remains stubbornly loyal to his Tuscan dream.”

Monica Larner, Wine Advocate (01/23)