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Gaia Gaja: The most influential Italian woman in the wine industry

posted onNovember 23, 2017
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Gaia Gaja is one of the most influential Italian women in the wine industry worldwide and co-Owner at Gaja Winery And Gaja Family Wine Estates. The Gaja winery was founded in 1859 by Giovanni Gaja, Gaia's great-great-grandfather. The Gaja family arrived from Spain in the Piedmont region of Italy in the mid-17thcentury. The family opened a tavern in the village of Barbaresco and served its wines with the food. At the end of the 19th century, Gaja wines were bottled and supplied to the Italian army in Abyssinia.

Gaia’s grandfather, was responsible for developing Gaja as a significant wine business. He went out and bought what he felt to be the best vineyards in the region, from the 1930s until the 1950s. He was the mayor of the village for 25 years. He was also the first person to put the name Gaja, or rather GAJA, in large red type on his labels in 1937, demonstrating a flair for marketing that he passed on to his son and granddaughter. The distinctive black-and-white label is among the most recognizable in the world.

Gaia's father, Angelo Gaja, is credited with revolutionising the Italian wine industry. He has been working in the winery since 1961, and is largely responsible for shaping today’s portfolio. During the 1960s and 1970s he made a name for himself by controversially defying his father (and tradition) by planting French grape varieties in his vineyards. Up until then, Italian vineyards grew Italian grapes. His other big move was to enter the American market, which promptly exploded.

The Gaja winery produces Barbaresco and Barolo wines, as well as Brunello and Super-Tusan winesand Angelo is nicknamed ‘The King of Barbaresco’. Gaja Barbaresco and Barolo has a strong presence on top wine lists.

Gaia Gaja
Gaia Gaja Photo Credit: Mark Mitchell

Gaia was born in Barbaresco in 1979 and grew up immersed in the culture of wine. After school and on weekends, she often spent time at the winery with her parents. She began working in the family business in 2004 after graduating from college with degrees in classical studies and economics, and after a short stay working in San Francisco.|

“One evening I was having dinner with friends in San Francisco and they surprised me with a bottle of Gaja Barbaresco 1989. Sipping that wine quietly amid the lively sounds swirling around our table, I felt the hills of my village calling me, beckoning me home. At that moment, I discovered how deeply rooted I was in Barbaresco.Wine is a magnificent thing—the essence of a place and a moment.” Gaia wrote in a blog post on winespectator.com

Gaia travels widely, runs the office and drives the business. Her sister, Rossana is involved, but more in the production side: she’s a trained winemaker. Gaia takes an evangelical view of her job, considering herself as a preacher more than a salesperson. “When you go around the world and promote the wine of your family and your own variety, it is not about selling and more about a mission of sharing your culture” she told Billionaire in an interview.

Joining the Gaja winery and Gaja Family Wine Estates has sparked a passion that has become a driving force her. She brings a new energy to the company and fine-tunes the details. “I believe that we should always strive to do better and better and that is what inspires me every day” she says.

The region's lovely landscape of vineyards, including both Barbaresco and Barolo, are included in UNESCO's World Heritage sites.