The phrase “and it rose like a phoenix from its ashes” is very true for the Timorasso grape variety.
Timorasso is a white grape variety which is autochthonous to the Colli Tortonesi region in the southwest Piedmont. Once an almost extinct variety this was revived in the wine market by Walter Massa for which is considered something of a prophet in the eastern regions of Piedmont.
It was only after Massa’s pioneering endeavour that in the late 1990s the local breeders started growing this variety.
At present there are more than 20 wine firms producing Timorasso. In the Colli Tortonesi region this grape variety is used to make 85% pure Timorasso wine and the rest of the balancing is done by Bianco and Vermentino.
Over time this varietal has come to be known by various names like Morasso, Timoraccio, Timuassa, Timorosso, Timorazza, Derthona and Dolce Verde.
The Colli Tortonesi DOC has been named after the Tortona town. Hence the wines produced in these appellations are labelled as Derthona which is the traditional name of this town in the local dialect.
It is generally used for the production of Dry Blanc wine and Grappa which is a special type of brandy made using Grape Pomace.
This might have been due to two probable reasons. Firstly, due to the Phyloxera, this started destroying the vineyards of Italy in the mid 1870s. This blight might have brought Timorasso in face with the near extinction experience.
A second reason could be its trying and testing nature accompanied by its low yield, which led the local breeder to choose other varieties over Timorasso.
By the 1980s, there were so few vines of this variety left that they were absolutely erased from the memory of the international wine market as well as the native regions of this vine. It was during this time that Walter Massa took notice to the very few left stray vines of Timorasso in their family vineyard.
Massa perceived their potential and decided to take a risk with the Timorasso vines by planting this variety in one of the prime sites of his vineyard. He first harvested and vinified this variety in 1987.
After this in 1990 he devoted more land and energy behind this species constantly tasting and re-tasting the older vintages to decide the best way to age the wine. Finally in 1995 he was convinced of the grape’s great aging ability and re-launched it in the wine market.
After this many local famers took Massa’s lead and started growing Timorasso. Currently Timorasso vines cover about 200 hectares of the Colli Tortonesi appellations.
Viticulture and Wine Making for Timorasso
Due to their agricultural attributes and certain specific weather and soil requirements as well as their reduced stamina, abundant growth, upright carriage, immense fertility it is grown in the hill slopes of the vineyards.
They are an early ripening variety which ripens during late September. Vinification is done in stainless steel containers and are allowed to age for a period of 12 months.
These wines are not oaked but are allowed to ferment slowly on yeast lees for about a year to give them their nutty and oaky flavour.
Characteristics of the Timorasso grape
The leaves of this vine are characterised by a smooth surface and rolling edges which are moderately protruding. They tend to have 5 lobes and a medium size a velvety feel to their veins.
The clusters are medium sized, compact and fairly elongated with a pyramidal structure and often have wings. The berries are generally medium size spherical in shape and are non-identical to each other with a moderately thick pruinose skin.
In a glass the wine is more or less of the straw yellow shade. The wine produced has a minimum alcohol content of 5g/l. Timorasso produces full bodied wine with the aroma of tropical fruits with a little floral undertone. They have the essence of apricots, spices and slight whispers of honey which blend together perfectly to leave a rich taste on the palate.
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