By Rasmus Christensen July 2021
The white Barolo. The indigous Piemonte Riesling. Or Italy’s most exciting white variety. There is much praise of Timorasso, but what’s all the fuss about?
Like a satile appellation Colli Tortonesi is distantly situated in the far south-west corner of Piemonte where it borders Liguria to the south and Emilia-Romagna and Lombardia to the west.
Beside Colli Tortonesi’s distant location from the rest of Piemonte, it also differs by being an appellation where a wihte grape variety is stealing the spotlight.
Timorasso. An ancient variety indigous to Piemonte and traced back to the 14th century, where it has a long viticultural history, but by the 1980’s it was at the brink of extinction. It’s difficult to cultivate, takes a lot of time during vegetation, rippenes unevenly with big and small berries in what is known as Millerandage or hens and chicks which is a common problem for other varieties like Zinfandel. Plus it is prone to fungus diseases at the end of its long growing season. All these things in a combination with Phylloxera’s devastations and that in the 60’s and 70’s it fell out of favor for higher yielding and less labor intensive international varieties lead to a drastic decline. By 1987 less than 0,5 hectares of Timorasso was cultivated.
Maestro of Timorasso
Walter Massa from Vineti Massa winery, started as an experiment to separately vinify his decimated 500 Timorasso vines, from his family’s old vineyards in the hilltop village of Monleale in the late 1980’s. He found extraordinary quality and decided to plant Timorasso vines on one of his prime sites.
In 1987 he bottleled his first, and the first vintage of a 100% Timorasso, that traditionally has been used as a blending grape. He successfully kept on improving the cultivation, vinification and ageing to suit the variety in the best way. But he wasn’t alone in his project. With help from a handful of close friends he started a resurrection and renaissance for the variety that they fully believed had a bright future. With 216 hectares planted by 2020, the friends have now consolidated their future vision and the market has found a solid ground for Timorasso.
Character and personality
So what makes Timorasso so interesting? The variety has small berries, its low yielding, has a thin skin, with high acidity level, lots of polyphenols and aromatic components. This is a lot of dissarable elements to work with for winemakers looking to make quality wine. Wines that comes out with a typical aromatic fragrance, well structured, delicate fruit with crispy acidity and a terroir driven minirality. It doesn’t take oak aging very well, but it has a remarkable age worthiness, where it usually shines the brightest after more than 10 years in the cellar.
The heart of Colli Tortonesi
Colli Tortonesi DOC is centered around the old idyllic town Tortona which historically was known as Derthona under the roman rule, and the name Derthona othen appears on the label of wines made in this area. So all three names are related to the area around this city that is a capital in the area, housing more than 27.000 people and is worth a visit if you are looking for a city simply oozing of authenticity. Beyond a flourishing wine industry, the rolling hills of Colli Tortonesi is a countryside with mixed agriculture that are noticeably differentiated from the appearance of the Barolo area that are, besides some hazelnut trees, covered in vineyards. The region is also blessed by having all three types of truffles growing, black, white and black summer truffles ( Scorzone).
In the glass
From a recent tasting in Colli Tortonesi hosted by the local consortium, I had the opportunity to talk to several winemakers and taste many of their wines.
There were two things that made an imprint on me. The first thing was the overall quality of the wines. There were a few wines that stood out in the top, a large midderfield, and only a few that were less impressive. The second thing was Timorasso’s superior ability to express its terroir under different stylistics. You could categorize these styles in three groups. A stringent and precise steel tank version with delicate fruit and citrus notes. A more fruity and aromatic style, well structured and with notes of ripe pears and apples. And then a super aromatic style with herbal vermouth notes, full body and lots of complexity. All of these styles are lifted with a benchmark crispy acidity that makes it possible to match all the components.
The different styles reflect a region with room for experimentation, but also a demand for quality if they like to sell their wines too.
Which style of wine represents “the real” or “the future” Timorasso style is being strongly debated among the winemakers, and I sense that this discussion will go on for many years
Below you will find notes of some of the wines tasted.
Vignaioli del Tortonese – Timorasso Derthona DOC – Linea Fiumana 2019
With 14,5 % alcohol this wine presents an expressive nose with notes of tropical fruit and butter. It is full bodied with high acidity and a long finish.
Voerzio Martini – Timorasso Derthona DOC 2019
Developed fragrance with ginger and candied orange. Well structured, crisp medium plus acidity, medium body and a long and pleasant finish.
Cascina Giambolini – Timorasso Derthona DOC 2019
It has pastry and pineapple in the nose. Medium Plus acidity to compliment the discrete fruit. It could have suited this wine with a bit more structure and fruit.
Vietti – Timorasso Derthona DOC 2019
Intense nose with autolytic notes and tropical fruits. Medium body and acidity and a creamy mouthfeel.
Mandriorola Enrico – Timorasso Derthona DOC 2019
Takes a little time to fully open up. Medium body and acidity. Citrus notes, a little bit of spicy tannins and a long finish. Should age well.
Borgogno – Timorasso Derthona DOC 2019
Super aromatic nose with notes of white flowers, passionfruit and green herbs. It has a lively medium plus acidity with medium plus body. A bit of tannins and a salty minerality with a long finish. According to the winey, this is their white Barolo.
Cantine Volpi – Timorasso Derthona DOC 2019 – La Zerba
Aromatic bouquet with white fruit flowers, passionfruit and green herbs. Medium plus acidity and body and a little bit of tannins in the finish. The nose is the most charming aspect in this wine.
Pomodolce – Timorasso Derthona DOC 2019 – Diletto
A wine with a rustic farm like appearance. Notes of freshly pressed apple juice and anis. Medium plus body and medium acidity.
Borgogno – Timorasso Derthona DOC 2019 – Scaldapulce
Impressive intensity and aromatics.
Perfumed nose with spicy elements. Crispy high acidity, creamy mouthfeel from less contact and mineral driven finish. Takes time to open up and has a lot of aging potential.
Vigneti Repetto – Timorasso Derthona DOC 2019 – Quadro
Aromatic nose with yellow flowers and licorice. Soft texture from less contact. Medium acidity and medium plus body, slightly unbalanced.
I Carpini – Timorasso Derthona DOC 2019 – Timox Anfora
Natural wine expression with herbal vermouth and dried spices. Medium plus body and medium acidity. Apple juice and lively minerality. Distinctive and unique.
Ezio Poggio – Terre di Libarna Timorasso Archetipo DOC 2018
Perfumed nose with rose petals and mixed fruit juice. Medium plus acidity and medium body in a fine balance.
Voerzio Martini – Timorasso Derthona DOC 2018
Expressive nose with notes of mango and spices. Medium plus body with medium acidity. Well structured, a bit of tannins and a long pleasant mineral driven finish.
La Colombera – Timorasso Derthona DOC 2018
9 month on lees in steel tanks brings out an intense and aromatic wine with notes of quince and green tea. Medium body and acidity. A wine that is easy to love.
Vignaioli Battegazzore – Timorasso Derthona DOC 2018
Lots of expressions here. Mango chutney, sour plum. Full body with lively medium plus acidity and a bit of fruit sweetness to complement. Well made.
Vigneti Boveri Giacomo – Timorasso Derthona DOC 2018 – Lacrime del Bricco
Form a calcareous vineyard. 18 month in stainless steel on fine less. Medium body and medium plus acidity with delicate citrus notes.
Mariotto Claudio – Timorasso Derthona DOC 2018 – Cavallina
Aromatic nose with overripe yellow plum and flowers. Full bodied with tense medium plus acidity, minerals, a tannic touch and just a bit of fruit sweetness. There is a lot to offer here.
La Colombera – Timorasso Derthona DOC 2018 – Montino
Needs time to open up. Notes of white fruit flowers and citrus. Medium body and acidity with an elegant finish. Easy to understand and appreciate.
I Carpini – Timorasso Derthona DOC 2018 – Timox Anfora
Raised in Amphora, this wine presents an expressive herbal and spicy vermouth nose, with a full body, tight medium plus acidity and a long perfumed finish. Natural wine vibes and will likely age very well.
Vignaioli Battegazzore – Timorasso Derthona DOC 2017 – Maggiora
Form a vineyard in low altitude with clay and marl soils. Intens bouquet with candy like notes, full body, medium plus acidity, fruit sweetness and a crispy mineral driven finish. Drinks very well.
Vigneti Repetto – Timorasso Derthona DOC 2017 – Origo
Developed nose with notes of oysters, peach and wet limestone. Medium plus body, medium acidity and a bit of fruit sweetness. Lovely wine.
Pomodolce – Timorasso Derthona DOC 2017 – Grue
Form the highest part of the vineyard and last to be harvested. Aromatic with hints of vermouth, minerals, full body, medium plus acidity and a long autolytic finish.
Montagnola – Timorasso Derthona DOC 2017 – Morasso
Aromatic nose with oysters and sea weeds. Medium plus body and acidity. Pickled fennel and plum. Serious and well structured wine with a great ageability.
La Ghersa – Timorasso Derthona DOC 2017 – Riserva Timián
From an east facing vineyard with a long growing season. Developed bouquet with green herbal notes and blood orange. Medium plus body and acidity. Papaya and Campari in the finish.
Vigneti Boveri Giacomo – Timorasso Derthona DOC 2016 – Lacrime del Bricco
Elderflower, peach and jasmine tea. This is a structured, mineral driven wine with medium plus body and acidity and a gentle touch of tannins.
Cantine Volpi – Timorasso Derthona DOC 2016 – La Zerba Antica
Perfumed aromatic vermouth nose, with full body, medium plus acidity and notes of peach, mango, and fennel. It has a salty minerality and a well balanced fruit sweetness.
Ezio Poggio – Terre di Libarna Timorasso Archetipo DOC 2015
Spicy nose with notes of ginger, pear and herbs. Fully developed with a full body, medium plus acidity, a bit of fruit sweetness and noticeable alcohol level.
Vignaioli del Tortonese – Timorasso Derthona DOC 2014
This is a heavy and powerful wine with a full body, medium plus acidity, and notes of pinetree, orange jam, and a salty minerality. Would drink best, slightly colder than usual.
Mandriorola Enrico – Timorasso Derthona DOC 2012
Raised in a cement tank, this mature Timorasso presents expressive notes of grappa, plum and apple peel. It has a powerful and electric high acidity, medium plus body and a pleasant bitterness in the finish. Beautiful wine.
Montagnola – Timorasso Derthona DOC 2009 – Morasso
Fully mature and perfumed wine, with a crispy and lively high acidity to perfectly match the full body. There are notes of yellow plum, green tea and minerals towards the finish. Lovely Timorasso wine that are at peak maturity at this stage.
La Ghersa – Timorasso Derthona DOC 2007 – Riserva Timián
Perfumed and fully developed with notes of plum and green herbs. High and tense acidity to match the full body. It has a perfect balance with all its elements beautifully orchestrated. Impressive.
Mariotto Claudio – Timorasso Derthona DOC 2006 – Pitasso
12 hours of skin maceration and 18 month on lees with frequent battonage. Honey melon, vermouth and warm fruit. It has medium plus acidity and body, with an alcoholic touch and a good balance between all the components.
Vigneti Massa – Timorasso Derthona DOC – Sterpi 2005
From 35 years old vines on a prehistoric seabed with alluvial soils. Fully mature wine with notes of orange pie, freshly pressed apple juice and wet stones. It has a medium body and medium plus acidity and a bit of tannins in a long and complex finish.