Monday, August 29, 2011

Book Report - The Making of a Great Wine: Gaja & Sori San Lorenzo

Really an excellent book for all levels of knowledge and interest.  Many books on winemaking are mired in theoreticals and what ifs.  And that isn't a bad thing if you are trying to learn all you can about every decision point possible.  But it can be overwhelming at times.  Just wait for my review of "General Viticulture!"  In our book for today, however, Edward Steinberg has taken the welcome approach of narrowing his focus to one vineyard and one harvest that would ultimately produce the 1998 Gaja Sori San Lorenzo Barbaresco.

For those who have not tasted Nebbiolo from the Piedmont, go and try it.  The color is light, which can deceive a newcomer into thinking the wine is medium or even lightweight.  The nose is redolent of rose petals, raspberries, tar, black tea and spices.  Tasting will blow you away with a wall of puckering tannin unless you choose a wine that's well aged, the wines are HUGE!  They are expensive (good ones start at $50), and cellar for decades.  I've never tried the particular wine from Steinberg's book, it goes for between $450 and $600 at auction, but I know and love the type.

Read and you will fall in love with the uniqueness of Piedmont, its grapes, land and producers.  Along the way, Steinberg absolutely packs the book with knowledge of enology and viticulture.  We learn about Nebbiolo's unfortunate vigor, which bacteria grows where and when, and why Gaja plants straight up and down the hillside instead of across.  Esoteric details are really brought to life and his characters are colorful and eager to tell their stories.  We visit an oak auction with the guy who provides the staves for Gaja's barrels, his cork producer, many of his vineyard hands, even his chemist.

If you truly want to immerse yourself in a sense of place and time, and you think discussions of yeast strains are interesting, this book is for you.


  1. Have you read "The Vines of San Lorenzo"? Coincidentally, I just recently finished that book, which follows Angelo Gaja and the sori San Lorenzo through a full vintage. Really good read.

  2. Two books about Gaja and Sori San Lorenzo? Was yours 1989? They have to be the same and the publisher changed titles or something, don't you think?

  3. Yea, I checked Amazon. Both are by Edward Steinberg.