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  • Julia Harding MW
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  • Julia Harding MW
15 Jul 2008

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Update 5 Nov 2009 - PortoVino (www.portovinoitaliano.com) has advised us that they are the new exclusive importer for Vigneti Massa in the US.

First a little untangling of the wine name: Vigneti Massa, the name of Walter Massa’s wine company; Derthona, is an ancient name for Tortona (see below); Timorasso is the grape variety; Colli Tortonesi, a hilly region (colli means ‘hills’ in Italian) based on the town of Tortona in the province of Alessandria, extending from Monferrato to Oltrepò Pavese, and just north of Gavi in Piemonte.

I absolutely loved this white wine and found more aromas and flavours, and more pleasure, as I drank it over the course of a few days. My first tasting note was as follows: ‘Very inviting spiced honeyed nose and some creamy, lightly spiced aromas as if it had some oak influence (though I'm told it's unoaked). Nutty, citrus, with just discernible floral and apricot notes. Full of flavour and yet restraint, cool and fresh and lingeringly elegant and aromatic. Very well made.’ As the week went by, I found even more flavours emerging – white flowers, ginger, mineral and still nutty. I also noted a firmness in the texture but it was still alluringly creamy. Long, powerful and sophisticated with a gently floral finish.

What I had thought of as possible oak influence was a combination of this fascinating variety, the characteristics of the vineyard and the way the wine has been made – slow fermentation in stainless-steel tanks followed by nearly a year on its yeast lees.

This is the first wine made from Timorasso I have (knowingly) tasted and Walter Massa is pretty much the saviour of the variety that was once the prime grape in Gavi, before the less interesting but less troublesome Cortese took over.

Master of Wine Michael Palij, owner of the wine’s UK importer Winetraders, explains how he originally came across Walter Massa and his wines:

Walter and I first met a number of years ago when I was having dinner with the Lorenzi family from La Zerba. We were in a smart restaurant, minding our own business, when he approached our table and, politely but insistently, asked if we would mind if he offered us a couple of bottles of his wine with our dinner. He’s not shy, our Walter, but it was all done in good grace mingled with a hint of frustration bordering on the desperate.  Five generations of Massas have laboured tirelessly to keep the Timorasso flame alight; it’s not difficult to see the origins of Walter’s frustration. Here on the steep hills just east of Tortona grow the last few hectares of Timorasso in the world. An ancient variety with tiny yields and immense concentration, it ought to be served by the glass in every restaurant with even the slightest aspirations to a decent wine list. But it isn’t and Walter, no fool, knows why and why he must, literally, shove a glass in the hand of everyone he meets. Thank God he did! Last time we were tasting together Walter opened a bottle of the 1991; it appears to be indestructible.

The only other Walter Massa wines I’ve had the chance to taste are the Sentieri Barbera 2005 Colli Tortonesi, which was slightly gamey, herbal, peppery and aromatic with wild sweet fruit aromas, medium bodied and very smooth, attractive and not in the least bit simple; and Pertichetta Croatina 2005 Colli Tortonesi, which was deep and dark with an amazing combination of floral perfume, cedar and smoky bacon aromas, then fresh on the palate, with dry, dense but fine and ripe tannins and a long juicy finish.

UK stockists

Amps Fine Wines (Oundle), Bacchus (Olney), Caviste (Overton, Hants), Duncan Murray Wines (Market Harborough), Roberts & Speight (Beverley), Secret Cellar (Tunbridge Wells), Taurus Wines (Bramley, Guildford), York Beer & Wine Shop, Direct Wines (Belfast), Michael Lowe (Dublin).

US stockists
The Timorasso – plus the Barbera and the Croatina – are imported (and sold online) by Italian specialist Summa Vitis Wines in California. Contact them for more information: info@summavitis.com.

Elsewhere in Europe
I’m assured that the Timorasso is also available in Switzerland, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Japan and Norway.

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