Great Piemontese Whites – Erbaluce and Timorasso

October 30, 2009 at 10:40 am 6 comments

I previously wrote about Arneis, one of the most distinctive white wines of Piemonte. Today, I’m exploring two other brilliant whites from this region: Erbaluce and Timorasso.

glorsolani

Gian Luigi Orsolani, top producer of Erbaluce di Caluso (Photo©Tom Hyland)

Erbaluce

The Erbaluce grape is an indigenous variety of Piemonte found in the area near the city of Caluso, some twenty miles northeast of Torino. Amidst these hills, the grape delivers its finest wines, dispaying aromas of fruit (pear, golden apples, lemon) and herbs (rosemary, sage). Indeed the name of the grape comes from two Italian words: erba, meaning “herb” and luce, meaning “light”, an obvious reference to the wine’s brilliant color when it is young.

As the Erbaluce grape has such naturally high acidity, it can be produced as a sprakling wine as well as a dry white; it is even made into a gorgeous dessert wine in a passito version. The sparkling version in made in the classic (Champagne) method and thebest versions of these wines can age for more than a decade. The dry white is often aged only in stainless steel, but there are some excellent versions that receive small oak barrel treatment. 

Pair Erbaluce with a variety of foods, from seafood and risotto to pork and veal for the dry, oak-aged bottlings. The best producers of Erbaluce di Caluso include: Orsolani, La Campore and Cieck.

Timorasso

The Timorasso grape is planted in the Colli Tortonesi area in the province of Alessandria in far southeastern Piemonte near the border with Lombardia. This is an excellent variety that displays lovely tropical fruit aromatics (often pineapple) and very good acidity. Most versions are produced by aging only in stainless steel and famed produced Walter Massa has proposed a separate DOC zone for Timorasso that is only steel-aged; this DOC would be known as Derthona Timorasso (the current DOC used is Colli Tortonesi).

"Martin" bottling of Timorasso of Franco Martinetti (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

A few producers, such as Franco Martinetti also produce an oak-aged version; his bottling known as Martin is aged in 60% new barrique and 40% used barrique. This wine has a distinct vanilla custard aroma that adds to the tropical fruit notes. 

The best producers of Timorasso include: Walter Massa, Franco Martinetti, Claudio Mariotto and Daniele Ricci.

Timorasso is generally consmued in its youth, bt the best versions are at their peak 5-7 years after the vintage, while a few can drink well for even as long as a decade. Pair Timorasso with seafood, risotto and lighter white meats.

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. AJ  |  October 31, 2009 at 11:36 am

    Tom,
    You’ve peaked my curiosity about Timorasso. An obscure and rare white grape grown in the king of the red wines zone Piedmonte? Sounds like a treasure hunt. A quick search on the net confirmed my suspicion that locating a few bottles would not be easy. Any suggestions?

    Reply
  • 2. tom hyland  |  October 31, 2009 at 6:21 pm

    Yes, Timorasso is a real gem and it’s only made by a handful of producers. Thus there’s not a lot to go around. I doubt you’d find this wine outside of a major market such as New York or San Francisco.

    Best idea is to do a google search – perhaps you can find it online. Try one of the producers I mentioned in the article.

    Reply
  • 3. anna  |  April 12, 2013 at 3:27 am

    one of the best timorassos I have drunk is Cascina I Carpini from Pozzo del Groppo. Not to be overlooked. Has a holistic approach and loves experimenting. Even makes a SPARKLING Timorasso which is outstanding because it has that great acidity! Love this variety!

    Reply
    • 4. tom hyland  |  April 12, 2013 at 9:14 am

      Anna: Thanks for your comment. I’m not familiar with this producer, so here’s something else I have to look forward to!

      Reply
  • 5. Christopher Bradford  |  August 19, 2014 at 7:26 pm

    Just opened and enjoyed a 2010 Timorasso from Claudio Mariotto that I purchased at La Cambusa in Stresa (Lago Maggiore). My first taste of this wine, and it was outstanding. Blindfolded, I might have thought it was a Chardonnay because of its full character and oak. Lots of herbs and earth. What a gem,

    Reply
    • 6. tom hyland  |  August 19, 2014 at 10:03 pm

      Christopher:

      Thanks for the note. I’ll look for this wine on my next trip to Piemonte.

      Reply

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