Saturday, May 8, 2021

Morasso: The Timorasso wine from Cascina Montagnola (Viguzzolo, Colli Tortonesi DOC)

Morasso is the name of the Timorasso grape in the local Tortonesi Hills dialect. Now that could be a fond dimunitive or an expression of the farmers' feelings about planting this notoriously difficult-to-manage variety. Anyway, it is also the name of Cascina Montagnola's Timorasso wine, a wine that definitely does not embody the latter characterization.

Bruno Cavi and his wife Donatella Gianotti ran a very successful insurance biusiness in Milan and would venture out of the city on holiday from time to time. One such venture entailed tramping in the hills of Viguzzolo where they happened upon, and fell in love with, the property that is now Cascina Montagnola. They purchased the property in 1988.

Cascina Montagnola commune of residence indicated by
black encirclement structure 

They made their first wine in 1988 from grapes grown on the 1 ha of vines that was planted to Barbera Rodeo. Some of those vines are still in service today and are over 70 years old.

The first Timorasso vines were planted in 2003 and the first vintage of Morasso introduced onto the market in 2006. There was a second planting of Timorasso vines in 2018.

The estate is currently managed by Donatella (Bruno, unfortunately, passed on in 2020) and is now 20 ha in size, of which vineyards amount to 8 ha (up from the initial 1 ha). The farm is a polyculture with 8 ha devoted to cereals and greens, 2 ha to parks, and 4 ha to vegetable gardens and fruit trees (plus buildings and streets).

The vineyard holdings are distributed thusly: 2.5 ha for Timorasso; 1.2 ha for Barbera; 1.2 ha for Cortese; 0.7 ha for Chardonnay; 0.6 ha for Sauvignon; 0.5 ha to Merlot; and 0.5 ha to Croatina. The vineyards are sited on a gentle slope of calcareous-clay soils with a south-south-west orientation and at elevations ranging between 150 and 160 m.

The vines are farmed sustainably with practices that include: adhering to products that meet organic principles; eschewing herbicides; and clearing vine roots manually and with farm equipment (rather than using chemicals).

Grapes are harvested manually and transported to the cellar where they are gently pressed and, after 24 - 48 hours, racked. If conditions are humid (rarely), 5 - 7 grams of sulfur are added. There is no skin contact.

The must is fermented with indigenous yeasts in stainless steel tanks at 18℃ for approximately 25 days. There is no malolactic fermentation. The wine is then poured into steel aging tanks where they reside on the lees until after the following years harvest. The wine is racked a number of times during this aging period.

Prior to bottling, 8 - 10 grams of sulfur are added to the wine. The wines age in bottle until they exhibit characteristic features. As an example of the length of aging, the winery is now selling its 2017 vintage of its Timorasso wine.

Tasting Morasso
Thanks to the efforts of Anna Savino (Barolo Wine Club) I was able to get my hands on a bottle of the 2016 vintage of this wine.


Light gold color. Viscuous in the glass.

Sage on the nose at first blush. Elevated, high-toned, and elegant, initially. Sea spray and lemon grass. Weighty on the palate, with spice, acidity, minerality, salt, lime, and a bitter character, all preceding a cupric finish.

This is a complex wine. With a little time, a slatey, rocky minerality emerges, along with a furriness reminiscent of a tannin texture. The palate is fully cleansed with each new taste. 

With further residence, petrol, lychee, phenolic, saline, menthol, and spice notes along with a saline-acid-pine mix on the palate. Broader on the palate with time.

An excellent wine.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

Friday, May 7, 2021

Reis Derthona: On the trail of a six-person, non-native, Timorasso startup

They have known each other since high school (and, for two of them, since they were five years old). They have lived and studied together in Turin and are familiar with each others strengths and quirks. They have grown up around, and fully expected to be involved in, the production of wines made from Nebbiolo, Barbera, and Dolcetto. They all (with one exception) have day jobs at Langhe or Monferrato wineries and share a passion for the wines of their respective regions. 

They decided to do a project as a group and wanted it to be something challenging. Given cost and availability constraints, it most likely could not be in Barolo. 

It was within this context that the six friends decided to embark on a venture to make a wine (white) from an unfamiliar grape (Timorasso) in an unfamiliar region (Colli Tortonesi). Thus was the Reis Derthona Timorasso born.

The Timorasso venture is a testament to the friendship as well as the potential of the Timorasso from Colli Tortonesi. The friends are:
  • Simone Revello -- third generation of Barolo producer Revello Fratelli
  • Francesco Bianco -- Bovio
  • Luca Monti - Brovia
  • Luca Amerio -- Scarpa
  • Matteo Laiolo -- Vinchio-Vaglio Serra
  • Enrico Pezzuto -- currently finishing up a Masters in Enology.

Anna Savino (Proprietor, Barolo Wine Club) and I sat with Simone, Francesco, and Luca Monti for an InstagramLive Chat (on Wednesday past) to gain their perspective on the challenges and decisioning associated with launching a startup wine project under the conditions described above.


Being unfamiliar with the variety, the team had a lot to learn; and they had to learn fast. They had to travel to the region to meet with, and pick the brains of, some of the producers in the region. Further, they had to taste as many of the wines as they could as soon as they could. They were connected with Alessandro Davico of Pomodolce by a Tortonesi Hills resident who worked in the La Morra area and they hightailed it down to the region to meet him. They were well received.

Alessandro hosted them at his restaurant and invited Walter Massa to join them to provide advice and direction. The team was in awe. According to Simone, this was akin to them, as unknowns, visiting Langhe for the first time and having Angelo Gaja or Roberto Conterno brought in to give them advice. 

They had the opportunity to taste some of the old wines from Massa (Costa del Vento) and Pomodolce and those convinced them to go with a Timorasso wine as their first venture.

The easiest, least expensive way to launch the project was to purchase fruit. To that end they began a search for a young (more relatable) farmer who would understand their project. Alessandrio assisted in the search and they eventually settled on a 35-year-old farmer whose core business was fruit, rather than Timorasso, and who understood their objectives.

During the growing season for the initial vintage, they visited the farm almost every day -- to the consternation of family and friends -- because they wanted to see everything and learn everything. There is a lot to learn because the variety is difficult to work both in the vineyard and in the cellar. Harvest was complicated and challenging but, luckily, they had the assistance of Alessandrio. They are proud of how things went.

As regards the Timorasso growing environment, there is a constant wind in Colli Tortonesi, a marked departure from the Langhe. Another key difference is the relatively small number of vineyards on the slopes and the range of agricultural products in evidence (Seeing the slopes bereft of vineyards inspired them to visualize the potential for growth in the region and a place for them therein.). What is similar is the presence of Tortonian and Serravalian soils in both regions (According to Simone, structure in the Langhe and Colli Tortonesi wines are directly related to the soils in which the grapes are grown.). Simone sees a greater opportunity for organic farming in Colli Tortonesi due to lower incidences of downy mildew and odium. Ventilation is very important as the grape is susceptible to rot. As such, spacing is managed overall and some leaves were removed weeks prior to the harvest.

The grapes for the first vintage were sourced as shown in the chart below.


In constructing their wine, the team wanted to (i) respect the traditions of the area and (ii) reflect their learnings. The wines that they had tasted during their evaluation of the area were older and, as such, always open. They wanted to make a wine that was balanced in terms of body and acidity. Towards that end, they followed the suggestions of Massa and Davico. The grapes were hand-harvested and macerated for 12 hours in stainless steel tanks. The must was then soft-pressed and aged in tanks on the lees. Batonnage was applied based on taste-determined necessity.

At this point in the chat we turned to actually tasting the initial vintage of the wine, the 2019 Reis Derthona Colli Tortonesi Timorasso. Simone saw it as complex on the nose, with yeast and floral notes, and having a full, round mouthfeel, with abundant acidity, minerality, and salinity. In addition, I noted salinity, savoriness, sweet white fruit, green herbs, intense spice, and mint on the nose. It was broad-based and approachable on the palate, with salinity, umami, citrus, and minerality fronting a textured, lengthy finish.


One of the striking aspects of this wine is the label, designed and painted by Luca Monti, an artist in his own right. According to Luca, the label represents "the relationship between the roots and the other elements that we find in the vineyard. The black element represents the roots, the blue one the water, the green one the leaves and the grass, and the yellow one the sun. I wanted to try to make a label in a different style, an abstract style that I had never tried before. This effort matched with our project in that we were doing something that we had never tried before."

The team sees Timorasso pricing as still very affordable. Simone reflected that it is reminiscent of the way things were in the Langhe in the 1990s in terms of price/quality ratio. 

In terms of the future of the region, the team sees Timorasso remaining an artisanal wine. They are currently members of the Consorzio. rather than becoming mass-produced. 

Their 2020 vintage is in the works. Due to the Covid pandemic, they visited the farm much less than for the 2019 vintage but they have also become more trusting of the farmer.

This is a great team of guys and you can only admire their inventiveness, industriousness, courage, and resolve. This was a very good initial vintage, something that gives the drinker a reason to keep coming back. I think we will continue to hear from these guys, in this region, for a while.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Rocks and soils of Timorasso's Colli Tortonesi DOC

I have previously treated the geology of Colli Tortonesi DOC but, while the treatment was comprehensive, the final product was unconsolidated. I address that shortcoming in this post.

The Villalvernia-Varzi Line is a key feature of the regional geology. It is an east-striking, slightly dipping fault zone which separates the sedimentary structures of the Tertiary Piedmont Basin to its south of from the Epiligurian Unit sediments in the wedge-top basin to its north. The role that this line has played is evidenced in the two charts following which show the comparative parent-rock geology. The Line is represented by the Antognola Formation in both of the charts.

In the charts below, we see evidence of at least four tectonic events south of the line and no equivalent activity in the north.



The chart immediately following shows a lack of alignment in sediment deposition within the two basins except for Sant'Agata Marl in the middle of the Late Miocene and no evidence of deposition in the Epiligurian Units post that phase. It is unclear as to whether that lack of deposits post the Sant'Agata phase was due to erosion in the Epiligurian column or an early uplift.

Screen shot from Festa, et al., 
Geological Map of the Villalvernia-Varzi Line

As shown in the chart below, the parent rocks have eroded down to primarily limestone, clays and marls. 


Descriptions of these soil types can be found on my soils page but I have also used the wein+ glossary to construct the table shown below.

Table 1. Soil types described in Colli Tortonesi (Descriptions curated from Wein+)

Soil Type

Description

Limestone

  • Rocks with a dominant proportion of calcium carbonate and smaller proportions of magnesium carbonate
  • Widespread asa light grey or yellowish mineral and sedimentary rock
  • Formed as sedimentary rock in the sea by deposition of calcareous shells and skeletons of small marine animals and as lake sediment
  • Iron poorly available to plants in calcareous soils
  • Usually yield wines with good acidity; particularly well-suited to white wine varieties
  • Appreciated in cooler wine growing areas but require lime-tolerant rootstocks

Chalk

  • White, soft, fine-grained limestone that breaks down into a white powder
  • Often contains flint
  • Good water drainage due to its great porosity
  • Soil easily penetrable by vine roots

Clay

  • A mixture of sand, silt, and clay
  • Depending on the ratio, distinction made between sandy, silty, or clayey loam
  • Colored yellow=brown by iron compounds
  • Usually already decalcified
  • Produces full=bodied, powerful wines

Marl

  • Grey or yellowish sedimentary rock of about half clay and half limestone
  • Formed where clay particles were deposited on the fossil seabed with simultaneous lime precipitation
  • Fertile, heavy soils with high pH values

Sand

  • Weathering products of hard rocks
  • Grain size between 63 micrometers and 2 millimeters
  • High proportions of quartz and feldspar
  • Water-permeable, dry, and often infertile
  • Produces fragrant, low-acid wines

Lime Tuff

  • Deposition of lime with air inclusions
  • Porous structure caused by swelling mosses on whose plant  bodies lime precipitates
  • Mosses eventually calcify and die, while new mosses are already growing above them

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

Monday, May 3, 2021

Prevalence and effects of skin contact in Timorasso wine production

As shown in the table below, a significant number of Timorasso producers macerate the must on the skins prior to alcoholic fermentation. Why are they doing so? and why is the Timorasso cultivar a prime candidate for participation in such an activity?

Table 1. Instances of Maceration on skins: Selected Timorasso producers

Producer

Wine

Maceration Period (Hours)

Massa

Piccolo Derthona’ Timorasso

N/A


Timorasso ‘Derthona’

48 - 60


Timorasso Cru ‘Costa del Vento’

60


Timorasso Cru ‘Montecitorio’

60


Timorasso Cru ‘Sterpi’

60

La Colombera

Derthona

3


Il Montino

3

Franco M. Martinetti

Martin

36

Ricci

Derthona

72


San Leto

72

Teralba

Derthona

48 - 72


Stato

72

Morgassi Superior di Gavi

Timograsso

12

Cascina Gentile

Derthona

24

i Carpini

Ruggiada del Mattino

48


Brezza d’Estate

48

Massimo Pastura

Timian

16 - 18

Cantina Botazzi

Italo

N/A


Monterosso

N/A


Based on the figures above, Timorasso producers macerate their grapes for an average of 44 hours prior to alcoholic fermentation. In the case of Massa, the cold maceration is carried out in cement containers, after which the must is transferred to stainless steel tanks for fermentation. Massa is the only producer whom I could identify as also including stems in the maceration.

Skin-Contact Whites
Skin-contact white wines are recognized by their residence on the early part of the orange color spectrum, their earthy flavors, and enhanced mouthfeel. These characteristics are the result of macerating the skin of crushed and de-stemmed white grapes in their own juice (i) prior to pressing and (ii) under controlled time and temperature conditions (The procedure is generally carried out under cool conditions in order to limit the growth of spoilage organisms.). Skin-contact white wines are macerated for hours while skin-fermented whites are macerated for weeks to months. Further, skin contact is a pre-fermentation process while its compatriot extends beyond that to fermentation and, in many cases, maturation.

The berry skin consists of an outer layer with a wax-like coating (cuticle) and 6 to 10 layers of thick-walled cells (hypodermis) which accumulate phenolic compounds in fairly high concentrations as the berry matures (Dharmadhikari, McGlynn). The main components of the skin are phenols, aromatic substances, potassium, and other minerals.

Maceration refers to the release of constituents from the pomace following crushing and is facilitated by "the liberation and activation of hydrolytic enzymes from crushed cells." Substances extracted include: aromatic compounds, aromatic precursors, phenols and polyphenols, unsaturated lipids, nitrogen, and potassium. At high enough levels, these extractives will produce earthy flavors and enhanced mouthfeel in the wines and will contribute positively to the fermentation processes. The best results have historically been obtained from fully ripe, aromatic grape varieties such as Gewurtztraminer, Riesling, Muscat, Viognier, Chenin Blanc, and Sauvignon Blanc.

Phenols
Skin contact increases the amount of hydroxycinnamates, gallic acids, and flavonoids in the wine. Flavonoids increase slightly with contact time but strongly with temperature. These compounds are of concern because they contribute to bitterness and astringency and also serve as substrates for oxidation in white wines. While there are elevated levels of astringency in skin-contact white wines, they are nowhere near as high as in red wines. First, even though tannin is extracted from the skin of the white grape, the lack of anthocyanins means that only tannin-tannin bonds are formed, a combination that is less soluble in alcohol. Second, during fermentation, most of the tannin will precipitate out, thus limiting its ability to negatively impact the wine's sensory characteristics.

Aromatic Substances
Aromatic substances are located in the skin and layers of cells immediately below it. Examples of these compounds include (Dharmadhikari):
  • 2-methoxy-3-isobutyl pyrazine -- imparts bell pepper odors to Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc
  • 4-vinylguaiacol and 4-vinylphenol -- spicy, clove-like, and medicinal odors in some Gewurtztraminers
  • Terpenes -- can be found in Muscats and Rieslings.
Fermentation Benefits
While winemakers do not pursue skin-contact because of the benefits that it provides to the fermentation process, they gladly accept what is offered. Maceration (Jackson):
  • Improves juice fermentability and enhances yeast viability through its release of particulate matter, lipids, and soluble nitrogen compounds into the juice
    • Particulate matter provides surfaces for yeast and bacterial growth, adsorption of nutrients, the binding of toxic C10 and C12 carboxylic fatty acids, and the escape of CO₂
  • Improves the production of extra-cellular mannoproteins formed during alcoholic fermentation
    • When combined with reduced concentrations of carboxylic acid, facilitates malolactic fermentation by Oenococcus oeni.
The Timorasso Case
Writing in openingabottle.com, Kevin Day characterizes the Timorasso variety thusly: "Timorasso has a rich phenolic character, meaning the natural phenols and polyphenols in the grape yield a lot of aromas, flavors, textures, and characters." In other words, these factors, when coupled with the variety's thick skin, renders Timorasso an ideal candidate for skin contact.

Of the wines I have tasted to date, the one with the most evidence of skin contact was the Cascina Gentile, with its color, tangerine aromas, tannins, spice, and texture attesting to its residence. There is a little bit of a curve ball in this case as the producer ages 1/3 of the production in untoasted French oak barriques of unknown age.


The La Colombera is only exposed to its skins for 3 hours but the color, phenolics, and spice are indicators of this experience. 

I will continue to update this post as I tatse additional skin-contact Timorasso wines.


©Wine -- Mise en abyme

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Cascina Gentile (Capriata d'Orba, Alessandria) and its Timorasso Derthona wine

I was prompted to this exploration of the Timorasso variety and wine by the entry of a number of my favorite Langhe producers into the space. As I dig deeper, though, I am finding that "non-native" entrants are not limited to Langhians; so far I have identified two Gavi and one Monferrato producer making Timorasso wines. We can now add Capriata d'Orba's (Alessandria) Cascina Gentile to this list.

Cascina Gentile has been owned and managed by Daniele Oddone since 2009, the third generation of his family to fill that role. Daniele graduated with degrees in both Viticulture and Oenology from the Oenological School of Alba.

The estate, located between Ovada and Gavi, is 18 ha in size and, since 2015, has expanded to include vineyard space in Colli Tortonesi DOC. At this point it is not clear exactly where in Colli Tortonesi these vines reside. The Cascina Gentile Colli Tortonesi environment is characterized in the following chart.


The grapes are harvested manually and transported to the cellar for destemming and crushing. After crushing they are placed into stainless steel containers where they are macerated for 24 hours prior to alcoholic fermentation (20 mg of sulfur is added to the must).

Two-thirds of the wine is aged for 12 months in stainless steel with the remainder aged in French oak barriques. These barriques are untoasted, with the staves bent using steam.

Wine is aged in wooden barrels to: (i) enhance its flavor, aroma, and complexity through transfer of substances from the wood to the wine; and (ii) allow gradual oxidation of the wine. Due to a lack of toasting, only native aromatic compounds would be transferred into the Cascina Gentile Timorasso wine. Further, the age of the barrels will determine the extent of transfer of raw wood components into the wine.

The use of vessels other than stainless steel for aging of Timorasso wines is not "traditional." Massa aged his wines in stainless steel and, with one exception, all of the "local" producers followed suit. In the wines I have studied to date, only Vietti has veered from that path.

The stainless-steel- and oak-aged wines are blended prior to bottling and an additional 20 mg of sulfur is added. The wine is aged for  a few months in bottle prior to release on the market.

Tasting the 2017 Cascina Gentile Derthona Timorasso
I loved this wine. 


Light orange color. Complex on the nose, with aromas of Sapodilla, beeswax, honeyed herbs, custard, and hints of beer and gasoline. Great weight on the palate with bright acidity. Textured. Green tamarind and salinity with a lengthy finish.

After some residence in the glass, tangerine, iodine, salinity, and mint on the nose. The tangerine transits to the palate along with pepper spice. The wine is beginning to look and feel like an orange wine but I am not sure where that feel is coming from (Oxygen contact in barrel?) seeing that the skin contact -- at 24 hours -- is much less than the 48 to 60 hours that is common for Massa wines. And Massa wines -- at least the ones that I have tasted -- do not exhibit this much orange character.

Persistent on the palate and a long, slatey finish.

Tasting on the day after, the barrel effect becomes more evident with a leaner, spicier wine with drying tannins on the backend. Spicier, bitter finish. Will require some time to resolve the tannins.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Walter Massa: The Timorasso Messiah

When I was a kid growing up, I never imagined that one day I would be writing glowingly about Massa. But, here I am today, and that is exactly what I am doing. And the Massa of whom I speak? Walter Massa, the savior of Colli Tortonesi's Timorasso cultivar. The story has oft been told but I cannot treat Timorasso wines without a revisit. I meet that responsibility herein.

The Story
The Timorasso variety is native to the hills and valleys of southeast Piemonte but, given its (i) unpredictable results and (ii) farming difficulties, most of the region's farmers were replacing it with Cortese in the late 1970s (Cortese had higher yields and Gavi was all the rage).

The Massa family is also "native" to the Colli Tortonesi area, owning a family farm that dates its origin to 1879. In Massa's early years, the farm was built around a thriving fruit business and less-profitable vineyards. Walter inherited the vineyard when he was 30 years old.

Cortese was the dominant white variety planted on the estate but Walter was dissatisfied with its performance. The microclimate was not ripening the grapes adequately, leading to low-quality wines. He wanted to produce a high-quality white wine and embarked on a journey to establish whether Timorasso could fill that role. 

The journey began in 1987 when Walter filled 580 bottles of his first vintage with grapes sourced from 400 vines scattered around the family vineyard. The results were good enough to encourage further exploration.

In 1990 he planted Timorasso vines in a 1.4-ha plot called Costa del Vento. This vineyard had steep, south-facing slopes sitting at elevations ranging between 250 and 300 meters. Some of the vines that he had secured for planting were over 100 years old and ungrafted.

Walter vinified small batches for a number of years, testing different techniques, and was eventually convinced as to the viability and ageability of the wine. Over the course of the testing he discovered that the wine became better the longer it rested in the bottle. His first commercial vintage was in 1995.

But Massa was not only interested in Timorasso for his own account. He began to proselytize as regards the variety to anyone that would listen. Daniele Ricci worked as his understudy and acolyte and learned everything that he could from Massa before going off and founding his own winery. Elisa Semino, now of La Colombera, did her thesis on the Timorasso variety and, according to Walter, worked at his estate in 2000 while collecting data for her study. After graduation, Elisa and her dad were among the first five Colli Tortonesi wineries to heed Walter's Timorasso call.

Walter went on to mentor a large number of the small farmers in the region who saw his success and wanted to replicate it in their environments. They formed an association organized around Massa's production principles and met regularly to compare notes and taste each other's wines. He has also extended his knowledge and assistance to major Langhe-based players who are seeking to enter the market, embracing the mantra that a rising tide lifts all boats.

Vineyards
Walter initially had 400 vines scatterd throughout his property but planted the dedicated, 1.4-ha Timorasso vineyard Costa del Vento in 1990. He has further expanded his Timorasso base in the intervening years.


The Boscogrosso vineyard above is also the one of the source vineyards for the Vietti Timorasso offering

Massa farms sustainably, treating the vines only with copper and sulfur. Timorasso is subject to rot so he removes every other bud to improve ventilation through the vines.

Timorasso is very productive, necessitating a number of pass-throughs during the growing season as part of a vineyard-management regime. Walter makes three of four passes: green harvest, removal of shoots below the main shoot, and further load-reduction when ripening begins.

Wines
Walter currently produces five 100% Timorasso wines plus a number of red wines. The Timorassi include a Piccolo Derthona (grapes from Boscogrosso and Sigala vineyards), a Derthona (grapes from Costa del Venti Costiolo, and Sterpi vineyards), and three cru-wines (Costa del Vento, Stirpi, and Montecitorio). The production regime for the wines are, in general, as follows:
  • Hand-harvesting
  • Maceration on the skins in concrete vessels for 48 to 60 hours without sulfuring
  • Soft pressing
  • Fermentation with indigenous yeasts in stainless steel tanks (20 - 25ºC)
  • Spontaneous malolactic fermentation after temperature reduced to 10 - 18ºC
  • Wine aged in stainless steel tanks for one year (with batonnage)
  • Light filtration prior to bottling
  • Minimum 6 months bottle aging (Derthona spends 18 months in-house before release on the market while the cru wines are in residence for 24 months.)
Writing about the Massa wines in Wine Spectator, Kerin O'Keefe states thusly:
When young, Vigneti Massa's full-bodied Timorasso wines boast alluring floral scents, creamy apricot and apple flavors, and bright acidity. As they age, they gain in mineral complexity and boast dried fruit, almond and honeyed notes seamlessly balanced with fresh acidity. I've tasted numerous vintages over the years, and the wines evolve beautifully for at least fifteen years. As the vines get older, these superb whites may increase their aging potential.
Tasting Selected Vigneti Massa Wines
I tasted the 2018 Piccolo Derthona and the 2017 Derthona as input to this post. These are the only Timorasso wines that I have tasted to date that are equipped with screwtop closures.


The Piccolo was much clearer than the straw color presented in the Derthona. Stone fruit, sea spray, minerality, spice, menthol, and a hint of burnt orange on the nose. Much more powerful than the LA Spinetta Piccolo on the palate. Lime and lime skin, green tamarind, minerality, salinity, and lip-smacking tannins. Drying finish.

Tasted on the day following, sweet white fruit, tempered by a grey slatiness, pea soup, menthol, and spice. Weighty, bracing lime on the palate along with salinity, spice, and a leaden minerality. Bright. Lively. Lengthy finish.

The Derthona was much more viscuous in the glass than was the Piccolo. Salinity, herbs, and savory notes on the palate. Power and intensity. Full-bodied, with bright acidity and dried rocks. Lemon curd. Persistence. Long, drying finish hinting at the promise of the wine.

Tasted on the following day, bright appley notes, stone fruits, slatey minerality, and talcum powder on the nose. Weighty salinity along with lime, lime skin, and spice on the palate.


©Wine -- Mise en abyme

Sunday, April 25, 2021

What a difference the years make: Marina Coppi 2011 and 2015 Fausto Timorassi

The latest wine I that I have tasted in my Timorasso exploration is the Fausto from Vigne Marina Coppi. The winery is shown in the map below as being located in the town of Castellania. Climate in this area is continental, with significant diurnal temperature variation (positive for acidity retention) and very low precipitation.


The vineyards are located in a natural amphitheater halfway up the hillside, protecting the vines from the harsh north winds. The soils underlying the vineyards are lime-rich sedimentary marls with strata of grey-blue Sant'Agata marls that are 30% sand, 50% clay, and 15% lime.

Fruit for this particular wine are drawn from the Gabetto and Montagnina vineyards. These vineyards are trained Guyot at 5000 vines/ha density. The estate is farmed organically and follows integrated pest management principles.

As regards winemaking, the grapes are soft-pressed and then partially cold-strained off the must. After alcoholic fermentation the wine is transferred to steel tanks for 10 months of maturation inclusive of manual battonage. The wine is aged in-cellar for an additional 6 months after bottling.

I tasted both the 2011 and 2015 versions of this wine. 



The 2011 was an exceedingly complex wine, showing different facets based on temperature and residence in the glass. I poured a little into the glass before the wine got to optimal drinking temperature and was assailed with notes of turpentine, pine, sweet white fruit, and minerality, all coming at me in waves. On the palate, salinity, hint of rubber, a piney-mentholated character, and a late-arriving hot-pepper/blackpepper finish. A weighty wine.

After further chilling, sweet pine, honey dew melon, and white flowers on the nose. A palate-coating character which yields to a mineral blackpepper finish. Lime skin acidity, with acidity intensifying with residence in glass. I paired the wine with a hard cheese and it was a good coupling.

Overall, a sweet floral nose wrapped in a herb overcoat. With passage of time, a metallic, cupric note appears on the palate. Settles in as a weighty Carricante. Closest wine that I have had to this character is an aged Benanti Pietra Marina.

The 2015 was not as captivating, or as complex, as the 2011, confirming the oft-made assertion that time is Timorasso's best friend. 


Pale gold color.  Honeysuckle, sage, mint, shoe polish, fig, and talcum powder on the nose. The plethora of aromas do not transit to the palate indicating that they are currently masked by either the bright acidity or minerality in the wine. Round mouthfeel, but lacking in volume, with acidity and pepper spice dominant initially. Dried stones, iron and tree bark.

Tasted on the following day; no eye openers here. The future may be brighter for this wine though as, according to Wine Spectator, "This wine is just beginning to put on some of the extra volume and texture it gains with age; however, it still shows bright primary fruit and a crisp, tonic personality."

Growing season notes for the 2011 showed early bud break, rain through the heart of the season, and acidty preservation due to low temperatures in July and the beginning of August. According to the winery's notes on that season, "The vintage has produced fresh and aromatic wines of good complexity." No such notes are available from the winery for the 2015 vintage.


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