Posted by: tomciocco | September 9, 2012


Despite the successes and recognition that has been heaped onto Friuli’s Furlan (F.K.A. Tocai), Marche’s Verdicchio, or Campania’s now famous triumverate of white grape varieties, Fiano, Greco, and Falanghina, Italy is still known as a red wine country. The complaint about Italian whites is that they’re often fresh and fun, but ultimately lack the gravitas to stand with the best whites from France, Germany, or Austria. I’d argue that a few of the aforementioned varieties have all the raw materials necessary to stand with the best wines from north of the Alps and have come pretty damned close, but there can be no doubt that Piedmont’s Timorasso was at least born for greatness…

Now found growing almost exclusively in the hills around the town of Tortona in southernmost Piedmont (hence its inclusion under the greater Colli Tortonesi D.O.C. name – Derthona is a sort of sub-zone designation – see label), it seems likely that this variety covered much of the entirety of Piedmont, as well as a decent part of Liguria as well. And no wonder too, because Timorasso is a bruiser in the vineyard as well as in the glass. Timorasso is resistant to both too much and too little precipitation, resists intense heat quite well, is not prone to most vine diseases or molds, and its love of high, steep terrain makes it highly resistent to extended cold weather as well.

All these positive traits are what have enabled Timorasso to make a comeback over the last 20 years or so, but what submerged and nearly extinguished this big white in the first place was the twin killer of both low and irregular yields. Before the days of selling quality wine for top prices, sheer quantity was king to grape growers, so despite Timorasso’s toughness, its tendency to make fewer bunches overall, and year to year being prone, in certain spots in the vineyard, to produce none at all, pushed it out to the margins, and all too often out of the vineyard altogether. But today’s continual drive toward quality over quantity (and to a lesser extent novelty) in combination with Timorasso’s inherent fineness and great ability to age very gracefully, have allowed certain dedicated growers to overcome the variety’s parsimonious bent.

Timorasso wines are big: high alcohol, but with a stiff and deep but still soft structure to balance it, a truly unique bitter-sweet brown spicy/citrus character, and an intense concentration that can present some food matching difficulties; and it is this sheer size character that also makes it a great solo slow-sipper (vino da meditazione as it’s called in Italian).

What I matched this powerful, exotic wine with was a Piedmontese classic appetizer called salame di tonno (tuna salami) which is a really a cheesecloth-rolled poached log of tuna, egg, breadcrumbs, anchovies, and parsley, served chilled and sliced with an anchovy and caper sauce. The main course was a stew of pork shoulder, potatoes, green beans, tomato paste, wine, rosemary, sage, etc…










Terralba Derthona Timorasso Colli Tortonesi 2007

Medium greenish golden color. Intriguing and uncommon aromas of spicy honey-scented candle, apricots, citron, pomelo, fresh-sliced ginger and fennel, toasted grain, flint, minerals, and kerosene. In the mouth the wine is fairly big, rich, viscous, and intense, but with a balancing “clean but tousled” fresh acidity and saltiness, and deep flavors of yellow cherry, celery, lemon zest, orange juice, and toasted pine nuts. The finish is very long and warm with complex notes of herbs and quinine. This wine evolved positively for well over an hour.



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