Timorasso Part 2: A vertical with Claudio Mariotto.
This entry is meant to follow Timorasso Parte 1: Un giro con Walter Massa. You might want to read it before this one.
After waiting a couple weeks for an email response, and still nothing, I knew I was just going to have to call him. I’d be in Italy in just a couple weeks and Claudio Mariotto was on my must-see list. The only chance I had of securing a visit with him was to pick up the phone. But I found myself seriously doubting whether he’d even understand me, given I couldn’t rely on my usual incidental hand gestures, haphazard sign language, and random facial expressions. It would be a call across a distance of over 10,000km. What if there was a voice delay or he cut out? Or what if I misunderstand what he said or he talked too fast? Somehow, when all was said and done, I had been able to introduce and explain myself, set up my long-awaited appointment, and even crack a joke.
He had understood everything I had said and as it turned out, I found him at his winery on the date and time we agreed upon. He was expecting me.
After I arrived at Claudio Mariotto‘s home and winery in Vho, near Sarezzano, we decided to take a brief tour through the vineyards. Mariotto‘s estate includes about 30 hectares of vines, five of which are planted to Timorasso. These five hectares of vineyards have clay-calcareous soil, sit at about 250-300m asl, and face southwest. While some of the Timorasso vines in Claudio’s vineyards date back 40 years, many he planted anew in the 1990s.
Claudio Mariotto‘s great grandfather, Bepi, founded the farm in 1920. In the 1990’s Claudio took over control of the land and along with the help of his brother, Mauro, and mother, Piera, continued the family’s winemaking tradition. At that time he placed a new focus on Timorasso and like a handful of other producers in the zone, started to plant a more carefully selected rootstock of the best vines in his vineyards.
After the tour, we returned to the winery where Claudio had set up a vertical of his Timorasso wines, dating all the way back to 1999. For this I feel exceptionally grateful and thankful. This tasting provided me with a broad overview of not only what a great winemaker is capable of with Timorasso, but more importantly, the scope, personality, and potential of Timorasso—especially since its grand renascita (“renaissance”) in the 1990’s!
The vertical of Claudio Mariotto Timorasso from 1999 through 2010.
The wines are 13.5-14.5% alcohol. They undergo a soft pressing and are further refined on the skins. There is no oak treatment. They rest for a total of about 18 months in the winery before release to the market: about 12 months in steel and then six months in bottle. The Pitasso vineyard covers two hectares and another vineyard, Cavallina, the youngest, covers one. The rest of the Timorasso goes into the Derthona bottling. (In some vintages all the grapes from Cavallina go into the Derthona bottling.)
Derthona 2010. Straw yellow. Sweet almond and marzipan with smoke, ripe peach and lots of minerals. Tropical fruit in the mouth with a touch of petrol (idrocarburi); elegant. ★★★
Pitasso 2009. Gold color. Vanilla, marzipan, cooked peaches, and flint. A lanolin texture with citrus fruit. Simpler and more round than Derthona 2009.
Pitasso 2008. Gold color. A stronger flinty character than the previous ones along with vanilla, marzipan, and cooked peaches. Acidity, minerality, and even what I discern to be some chalkiness play together in perfect harmony. ★★★
Cavallina 2008. Aromas of a baking peach pie and carmelized butter. Rich and unctuous.
Derthona 2007. Vanilla, peach, and caramel. The easiest. ★
Derthona 2006. More vegetal/herbal in the nose than the 2007, along with the vanilla, peach, and caramel. Balanced, fresh, and supple. ★★
Derthona 2005. Spearmint dominates the bouquet but other fresh herbs and toasted almonds also come into play. The fruit is delicate and fleshy like apricots; the minerality is ever-so-present and even though we feel the wine is in a minor reductive stage, I still love it. ★★★
Pitasso 2004. Aromas of less-ripe fruit, for example, dried apricots and starfruit. Also scents of smoked almonds. On the palate this wine tastes sweeter, fuller, and simpler than most of the others. ★☆
Derthona 2003. Spearmint and white peaches. Extremely fresh with an impressive balance of minerality and softness. ★★★ My favorite.
Pitasso 2002. The most interesting one of the bunch. The “thinking” wine. Essences of mint, fresh green beans, apricots and plums. In the mouth it is round and layered. ★★
Derthona 2001. Sherry essences of flor (floral smelling yeast that sits on the surface of wine as it is turned into fino or amontillado sherry), flint, and smoke. Also mint, raw almonds, and vanilla. Very rich and a little hot on the palate. ☆
The 1999 and 2000 were in a world of their own world. They were richer and quite a bit more ethereal in the aromas and flavors. I found them very enjoyable but I did not rate them because they were still shifting and developing in my glass. (And they were last after many!) But if I ever have the chance again (which I am certainly not counting on!), I would not turn down the opportunity to try either one.
Derthona 2000. Amber color. Tons of mint, anise, and smoke. Rich texture and flavors: peaches and hot cayenne — peculiarly spicy but not off-putting. Fourth year of the vineyard (Cavallina).
Derthona 1999. Amber color. Complex and changing bouquet: almonds, mint, and cake with wild strawberries. Tons going on. Fairly unctuous in the mouth with lemongrass notes. Third year of the vineyard (Cavallina).
I couldn’t name many other grapes—red or white—that age as graciously as Timorasso. After 10-15 years, having only spent a mere 12-month rest in stainless steel vats, before bottling, it shows up full of life and expression. Granted, most renditions of Timorasso undergo a brief repose on their skins but I’ve had five year old Cortese with the same treatment and it would likely be on the decline by then. Some producers may use a little oak but the resulting Timorassi are no more age-worthy than any of the others. To take a romantic slant, it is the strength, integrity, and character of Timorasso that make it so astounding. But to be more scientific, I will say it is the minerality and acidity of the Timorasso grape, along with its inherent floral and firm fruit qualities, that give this grape its ability to age so successfully. Either way, it is still amazing to me.
For more information about Timorasso, the following websites could be useful. (But you might have to use Google Translate if you don’t know Italian.)