Having tasted this wine when I was last in Piemonte, what seems like many moons ago, I am delighted to have secured a small allocation.
This is the first vintage that Vietti has made of their Timorasso. Never heard of this grape variety? Well, you can be easily forgiven as it is an obscure, yet historic grape variety that was referenced back in the middle ages, and said to be grown around the town of Tortona, some 50 miles east of Alba. In fact, the area known as the Colli Tortonesi lies close to the border between Piemonte and Lombardy, Liguria and Emilia-Romagna.
Despite the variety historically having enjoyed success on the blue marl ‘Tortonian’ soils of the region, the variety fell out of favour when phylloxera ravaged the vineyards of Europe in the late 1800s. And as we enter the 20th century, it is red varieties that started to dominate in the region. Saving this variety from extinction is largely credited to Walter Massa and Andrea Mutti, both of whom worked towards developing a greater understanding of the variety and whose winemaking efforts sparked a resurgence of interest. Interestingly, it was Luca Currado’s father Alfredo who worked hard to change the fortunes of another indigenous Piemontese variety, Arneis, so championing obscure varieties is not uncommon to Vietti.
However, Timorasso is not some simple early drinking varietal, low on complexity and low on ageing potential – quite the reverse. It is capable of making surprisingly complex whites with the ability to age well. Luca is said to have started to refer to it as white Barolo, much to the annoyance of some other producers! What he is trying to stress is the variety’s structure – Timorasso possesses a good acidity, it is lively in its youth and it is a variety that benefits from some skin contact so it picks up tannins in the winemaking process. It can at first seem very restrained on the nose, but it really opens up with air. Luca compares the acidity to Chenin Blanc, and I saw something of Riesling in its character traits at our tasting.
It has taken a lot of experimentation to arrive at the quality I saw in the glass – the Currados are certainly proud of what they have achieved, but understanding how to craft a fine Timorasso required a steep learning curve. Luca Currado experimented with vinifying the wine in stainless steel, in concrete and ceramic eggs, before finally settling on an approach that incorporated all three. The aim was to get the right level of oxygen exchange and experiment with lees contact, the fine yeasty deposit that settles during ageing. Perhaps the biggest challenge was judging the duration of contact with the skins – most white grapes are crushed with the juice being run off straight-away for fermentation, but Timorasso is rich in phenolic compounds in the skins, and the wine can benefit from some contact. Too much and according to the Currados, it can bring about a distinct Riesling like petrol character. Luca comments that he prefers not to force these characters but to allow them to emerge with age in bottle. You can bet there were some pretty ‘interesting’ experiments with this variety!
When I first tasted it, I didn’t quite know what to think as I had no real knowledge of the variety, I knew the name but nothing more. At first, it seemed a touch neutral, but as we discussed the wine, and gave it a chance to breathe in the glass, my fascination grew. It opened considerably in the glass…lively green fruit characters, apple, gooseberry, yellow plum, slightly nutty, slightly honeyed, definitely mouthwatering in style, yet a sneaky depth and texture started to build, and it came over richer and rounder than I perceived on first taste. Then I picked up that citrus-oil and slatey mineral character that I tend to find in aged Riesling. I will be really interested to see how this develops in time, not just this vintage, but also the Vietti project. There is no doubt this is a successful first vintage release, but as they get to grips with the variety, there are sure to be further strides forward. The Currados have focused on Timorasso, not to add a simple early drinking style to their portfolio, rather they have added Timorasso as they have become convinced by its potential and found the right opportunity. I include Monica Larner's recent note below, Antonio Galloni is yet to release a note.
It is called ‘Derthona’ on the label as this was the Roman name for Tortona.
2018 Timorasso Derthona, Colli Tortonesi, Vietti
£110 per 6 bottle case in bond
93 points, Monica Larner, robertparker.com
This is an exciting new addition to the Vietti portfolio. The 2018 Colli Tortonesi Timorasso Derthona is a compact, medium-bodied wine that offers a large span of neutral aromas ranging from melon and quince to Golden Delicious apple. What sets the wine apart is its silky texture and creamy fruit weight. I happily drank my sample with some take-out spring rolls in spicy sauce. We will surely see more prominent winemakers in Lange who decide to dabble in Timorasso in the upcoming years. This native grape shows promising aging potential and makes for an excellent white wine addition in a portfolio of age-worthy reds. 2020-2028.
Please note as this is a first release, we have limited stock available.
All the best,