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Timorasso: Italy's Great (Secret) White

Bottle of Italian white wine

Not long ago, I was dining with a friend at Legacy Records in NYC. It was a fab eve; I thought the ambiance, dishes, service, and cocktails were bang on… and then I came across a Timorasso on their white by-the-glass list. I’ve probably sampled over 300 different grape varieties, but couldn’t honestly remember the last time I had a Timorasso.

That’s not really a surprise – for one, this Piedmontese variety nearly went extinct. Also, other Italian whites like Pinot Grigio, Gavi, even Vermentino and Arneis are more common on wine lists because they’ve got much higher production and distribution profiles. (And Timorasso is SUCH an unfamiliar grape that they’ve never put one on the Master of Wine exam, so why bother taking up study time to check it out? Ha.)

I looked at the other options and scratched my head. What did Timorasso even taste like again? Aw screw it, I’ll gamble – one Timorasso please.

Friends, it was so delicious, I couldn’t even stand it. Rich, unctuous, buckets of melon fruit and florals with a minerally backbone – wowzers. Maybe the acid isn’t as high as this Riesling/ Chenin/ Assyrtiko-lover would prefer, but I did not care one bit. I was utterly delighted.

The next day I popped in for a shift at Flatiron Wines & Spirits, my home-away-from-home, and was telling a colleague about this delicious discovery. Suddenly I scratched my head again – wait a sec, do WE have a Timorasso on the shelf? I mean, what are the odds? Cue running to the computer to search inventory… and BOOM, yes indeed we do, the bottle pictured above. Now, I am compelled to say that we didn’t have much to begin with, plus after I bought one bottle and discovered how similarly lush, viscous, and hedonistic it was, I sold two to customers, and then snagged the last one for my fridge because I JUST. COULDN’T. HELP. IT.

But I hope that we can get more in (I do happen to have the ear of the buyers, ahem,) or at least I hope we can all uncover another secret unicorn bottle of this grape, because it’s JUST. THAT. GOOD.

I looked up some notes and was reminded that pretty much the only reason I was currently in passionate throes over Timorasso was because of one man, believe it or not. In the late 1970s, Walter Massa took the reins of his family’s farm, which was focusing on Barbera like their neighbors. But he had other thoughts, believing that the region was better suited to white grapes over more profitable reds. A common white, Cortese, was fairly bland, but there was a small amount of interesting Timorasso on his land, and he grew so fond of it, he created a selection of the best grapes from the area, and in 1989, planted a vineyard entirely to Timorasso. Today, he makes three single-vineyard bottlings, and one (the Derthona above) as a blend from all vineyards.

In the winery, there’s some maceration with stems in concrete, there’s some wild yeast action, and there’s a good deal of bottle aging, all leading to this glorious, lusciously fruity, viscous, sexy wine. And thanks to Walter’s passion and success, other producers are now on the Timorasso bandwagon. However, production and reputation remain small… but the question is, for how long?

You all may tire of my endless pleas to be adventurous, but I’m never going to stop making them. For even I, Queen of Adventurous Wine Drinking, was brilliantly surprised by a near-secret white that barely murmured on the outskirts of my brain. Check out a Timorasso – if you can find one – and see if you are likewise enraptured.


Above: 2021 Vigneti Massa Piccolo Derthona ~$23

(Originally published on old site 5/30/23)

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