Great Piemontese Whites – Erbaluce and Timorasso
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.
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.
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).
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.