About the Wine
So you hear it bandied about: “There are thousands of native grape varieties in Italy!” That’s true, but a lot of them are merely cute. The most serious native variety Timorasso deserves another category (and it’s white to boot). It’s utterly unique, complex, capable of aging, and transparent to where it’s grown. Walter Massa is the contadino straordinario who brought the grape back to life in the early 1980s. He remains the leading producer and go-to grower for Timorasso. Sterpi is one of Massa’s three single-vineyard Timorassos. This site produces more mineral, elegant, and sinewy wines.
Walter Massa is the real deal: a contadino (farmer) with deep family roots in his native Colli Tortonesi who’s usually plowing his vineyards or buzzing around his cellar when someone arrives for a visit. He’ll then stop to spend hours showing around, pouring wines for, and talking with the continual waves of journalists, sommeliers, importers, buyers, and just plain fans who make their way to his village of Monleale in the southeast corner of Piemonte. Massa is universally known as the Maestro of Timorasso — he rescued it from obscurity and near-extinction and now leads a mini-renaissance of the variety in the Colli Tortonesi. But he also produces amazing and distinctive reds from the local varieties Barbera, Croatina, Freisa, and Nebbiolo. Besides being one of Italy’s truly great producers, he’s a stellar example of what the Italians call a personaggio — a real personality. We are lucky to have him and his wines.
We often say that Timorasso is like Ali: “Float like a butterfly (baroque fruit and honeyed minerality) and sting like a bee (lots of well-integrated acidity)”. Sterpi is typically minerally and linear; there’s a sinewy quality to the fruit and less overt richness than in the Costa del Vento cru. Timorasso is one of the longest-aging white varieties in Italy. In fact, the wine often needs an extra year or two in bottle before it becomes expressive and fun to drink. Good vintages easily age five to 10 years, and we’ve has bottles going back to the 1980s that remained alive. It’s especially fun to pour this wine blind for your friends who love aged white Burgundy or Riesling. (And although it’s not inexpensive, it costs considerably less than most Premier Cru white Burgundies!)
For Timorasso as a variety: It’s native and unique to the Colli Tortonesi (southeast Piemonte). Before 1980s, most growers were ripping out Timorasso and planting Cortese, as the latter produces more and Gavi was all the rage, so they could sell the grapes easily. Timorasso is one of those grapes (unlike, say, Cortese) that really is delicious and refreshing to eat right off the vine, due to its high sugar content and acidity. When Timorasso is vinified, you get lots of complexity and structure (from alcohol and from tannins – skin contact and thick skins!). Yet there’s plenty of acidity to keep things fresh and a definite counterpoint of what we call ‘honeyed minerality.’ When Timorasso is young, it can be really tight. As it ages, it loses some of its baby fat, and riesling-ish, petrol-like notes emerge. As far as terroir, Walter vinifies each vineyard separately (or tries to if he has enough tanks) and bottles a small portion of three of the vineyards separately.
Élevage: In stainless steel and concrete tanks. Minimum six months bottle aging before release.
Tasting Notes: 100% Timorasso. This is not your typically light and simply refreshing Italian aperitivo white wine; it’s one of the great white wines of Italy (really). Like all Timorassos, it’s got substance and structure and deserves substantial food, such as richer fish, poultry, and pork dishes. Use it as you would an Austrian or (dry) Alsatian Riesling. It’s also an excellent vino da meditazione at the end of a meal.
The 2013 Timorasso Costa al Vento is absolutely gorgeous. Orange peel, apricot, burnt sugar, hazelnut and petrol suggest the 2013 is entering its plateau of maturity, and yet bright acids confer quite a bit of freshness as well as energy. ~92 Vinous Media
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