Timorasso has not achieved international renown, many people in fact rightly consider it a “niche product”, with its forty hectares of cultivated vineyards and its local identity. These data banish, or probably protect, this wine varietal in a small portion of land near Tortona. Timorasso remains a “breath” of peasant life; it has for long been relegated to private homes, and to the local background.

Timorasso grapes are cultivated and produced by all “Consorzio Piemonte Obertengo” associate members.
The history of medium and medium small agricultural holdings is nearly the same and it is characterized by common connotations belonging to this typical peasant tradition, that is strictly linked to the cultural, social and economic history of this agricultural area.
They are family farms managed with the help of temporary labour force, whose structure and production are hand down from father to son. The last generation, unfortunately, more than the others is in danger of fighting for the survival of its activity in the global competition, just like those places where important economies are obstructed by insurmountable structural problems.
The strong ties of membership linking each agricultural holding to its territory and the need to look in ones productive environment to find the necessary resources to face cutthroat competition are the elements playing an important role in directing daily activity and work towards high quality, in order to obtain products of excellence.
Nothing else could be done by people believing strongly in their roots and understanding clearly the meaning of ancestors’ viticultural choices, perfectly interpreting the tight relationship linking productivity to the environment and the territory.
For this latest generation of Tortona Hill vine growers the return to the Timorasso has represented essentially the best way to definitely consolidate and highlight peasant culture and its ability to make well-being, that was interrupted just temporarily after the illusions of the “industrial boom” and the short-lived boasts of the post-industrial era.
Today, the attention paid by centres for viticulture research to this wine varietal is greater by comparison with the attention paid only ten years ago by the same bodies to international genetics. This has obviously enabled vine growers to get useful information and to rely on elements, such as zoning and clonal selection, to optimize viticultural and oenological productions.

Technical remarks

Vineyard management contemplates integrated protocols according to PSR regulations (as per reg. 2078) for almost all agricultural holdings, with the exception of Cooperativa Valli Unite of Costa Vescovato, Pernigotti Adele of Carezzano and La Vecchia Posta of Roberto Semino at Avolasca, enjoying biological certifications.
Timorasso wines, with the indication of Obertengo members wine varietal on the label, have always been produced “in purity”. “Colli Tortonesi Timorasso” regulations, created on occasion of 2005 harvest, permits the use of other non-aromatic white grapes, that are allowed in the province of Alessandria up to 5 percent maximum.
Main ampelographic characteristics are relevant to shoot vigour that is streaked with red in the upper part, the leaf tendril is very strong and large, the leaf is with or without open petiolar sinus and the bunch for some genetic lines is very solid and with a few berries in other lines, where fruit abortion is frequent and abundant. The common denominator is average size obovate berry.
Productivity follows bunch morphological features, in any case it is abundant in response to a strong inclination to fruit falling during the period of “technical ripening”. Compact bunch typologies suffer due to their predisposition to highly destructive saprophytic fungi botrytis. Average predisposition to other main grapevine diseases.
No clonal line is under collection yet, but Istituto di Viticoltura (Viticultural Institute) of the University of Milan, thanks to the very high genetic variability of this vine variety, identified no less than four lines with substantial differences. Research is still under way and it was made in part by Elisa Semino of “La Colombera”, associate member from Vho di Tortona, during her studies. Until today, vineyards were obviously created according to mass selection criteria, taking the buds from the old vineyards and multiplying them in vineyard plantation farms in compliance with health inspection protocols.

From the bunch to the bottle

Timorasso growing teaches us a few things. Vineyards were once present mainly in high Curone Valley, in Grue Valley and in Borbera Valley, renowned to be wild and difficult for many types of cultivation. This bears witness to wine varietal rurality, having a predilection for poor and secondary soils with limitato franco di coltivazione and few water supplies. Radiation exposure is no doubt a very important element. An interesting aspect transpiring from zonation and territory characterization is this variety high qualitative performance at altitudes above 250 meters.
The training system is counter-espalier with mounting vegetation and 50-centimetre high vine-stocks; pruning is mixed with “Guyot” method, that is to say with spur and fruit cane for a total of 8-10 buds (the first four buds usually have reduced fertility).
Vineyard density never goes below 4000 stocks/hectares, but in some cases it exceeds 7000. Production rarely exceeds 70 quintals/hectare, but frequently the quantity is 60-65 quintals (below the allowed limit of 80 quintals), numbers reached with an almost always necessary thinning, just like it is crown careful management in summer, a period when grape bunch topping and leaf stripping are carried out. No Timorasso vineyard grown by Obertengo members is watered.
As far as the oenological profile is concerned, winemaking and maturing shared criteria are an idea enthusiastically wanted and accepted by all members. This starts from a very low technological impact, the minimum allowed. Ripen grapes are soft pressed with pneumatic press, while the must is separated from the coarse parts by static decantation at low temperatures. The roughly cleaned product is fermented after having brought the temperature back to the ideal one and after inoculation with selected yeasts. Fermentation goes on until sugar exhaustion; this period length is proportional to the sugar level. Often the alcoholic content exceeds 13,5% vol.
After the alcoholic fermentation, racking takes place, paying attention to leave most of the fine lees suspended on the mass that will then undergo ageing. Ageing length, made in stainless steel vats for all Obertengo Timorasso wines, lasts at least one year and during this period the samples taken from each member vat are tasted, in order to check how ageing is going on. At regular intervals, fine lees are resuspended in the vat by means of a mixer. In the meantime, malolactic fermentation takes place always and completely, with no need of inoculation of bacteria.
It is important to underline the positive effects of sharing the experience of ageing organoleptic test. This enables to exchange useful information in order to optimize the choices that each one will take in its agricultural holding.
Just before or after next year harvest, the wine is ready for bottling: the protocol provides for a mild filtration with diatomaceous earth, a chemical analysis of main chemical parameters, possible addition of SO2 (sulphur dioxyde) and low-temperature stabilization. Bottling takes place by means of a mobile technology purchased by the Consortium, after membrane filtration with 1µ porosity. The workstations available on the mobile bottle filler after housing are the following: rinsing with microfiltration, pre-evacuation with N2, filling in, vacuum closure. Ageing is always necessary: Timorasso wine is best after long bottle ageing. In any case, bottles are not placed on the market before the second Christmas after harvest.

Analytical data

Grape/wine yield: as per the regulations, 65%
Net dry extract: always higher than 24g/l
Total acidity: between 6 and 7 g/l
pH: between 3.15 and 3.25
Total sulphurous acid: never higher than 80 mg/l
Residual sugars: never higher than 4g/l
Developed alcohol: always higher than 13.5% vol

Aggregate data: Timorasso

Cultivated hectares: 42
Hectares under production: 23
Agricultural holdings engaged: 30 27 on Tortona hills
1 Gavi
1 area of Casal Monferrato
1 Borbera Valley
Average yearly production: about 120.000 bottles in 18 agricultural holdings