Derthona Timorasso

“White Barolo”Timorasso. Tortona. Derthona. Colli Tortonesi.Confused? Read on…

“White Barolo”
Timorasso. Tortona. Derthona. Colli Tortonesi.
Confused? Read on…

A bit of history

Predominantly a farming economy with 6,000 Ha of vines after WW2 which has declined to 1,300 Ha today as farmers switched their focus away from grapes and wine.

In the 1980s, the autochthonous (indigenous) Timorasso grape was on the verge of extinction with less than 0.5 Ha of vines remaining.

Walter Massa spearheaded the revival (with support from Mutti, Poggio and Mandirola’s vines) and there are now 300 Ha of Timorasso vines in the region with over 60 producers under the Collini Tortonesi DO.

Walter Massa is widely considered to be the top producer, and most people planting vines seek his advice on the best location.

The Land

The scenery is still a blend of woodland, farmland and vines, making for a laid back, natural landscape. This also means that the producers have had the fortune to select the best plots/aspects to plant (mid-hill, southerly aspects) to optimise quality.

Climate change is having an effect and newer vineyards are not necessarily planted with maximum sun exposure.

For the first 20 years, output was low, but the last 10 years have seen increased interest, new producers and higher output – although not at the expense of quality.
Several prominent Piedmonte producers are planting vines in the Colli Tortonesi region after failing to achieve sufficient results in their more westerly vineyards closer to home.

Prices are still affordable with top level Cru retailing locally at around €30-40.
Expect this to change in the next 10 years as the big boys arrive with their brands and marketing strategies. Already some newcomers are asking up to €100 / bottle

Timorasso: grape
Tortona: the town
Colli Tortonesi: the DO/Appelation “Tortona Hills”

Derthona: the ancient Roman name for Tortona. Used to indicate 100% Timorasso from the region, and underway to become the officially recognised DO, replacing Colli Tortonesi

“White Barolo”: nickname for the Timorasso from this region due to its ageing ability (producers feel most Italian consumers do not believe any Italian whites are ageworthy)

The charm: Loire chenin (stone fruit) meets Santorini Assyrtiko (minerality)

Location: Tortona is in the province of Alessandria on the south east corner of Piedmonte – between Milan & Genoa

The Grapes

This this article focuses on the native white Timorasso grape, other grape varieties grown are:

White: Timorasso, Cortese

Red: Barbera, Freisa, Croatina

TIP: Air for at least 30 minutes from opening to allow it to yawn, breathe and wake up. The DIAM corks are commonly used and so airtight that the wines are very closed upon opening.

The Wines:

For me, Derthona Timorasso is defined by its striking minerality (think Santorini Assyrtiko), and powerful structure (often 14%+ alcohol) with a fruit character similar to that of Loire Chenin Blanc (apricot, stone fruit)

They are at their best between 4-7 years, safely aged to 13 years and up to 20 years (some 1998s are still alive today; 23 years old at time of writing)

The focus is firmly on quality with DO regulations restricting yields to 8t/Ha and some producers (eg Repetto) limiting theirs to 6-7t/Ha

The Styles

Most wines have little / no oak ageing, and these are often the most expressive of the Timorasso grape variety.

Some producers have experimented with new oak which can mask the beauty of the grape and the characteristic minerality.

Many producers have an orange (skin-contact) wine in their range, and named whimsically “the strange one”, “the unbelievable” (possibly to disarm the sceptical locals with a bit of humour)

Sparkling Timorasso in the Traditional (Champagne) method, Charmat (Prosecco) method and pét-nat (single fermentation) are also available

The Cheese:

Look out for local 3-tiered cheese made from cow, sheep, goat milk: Montebore (mon-TE-bo-ray).

Apparently Leonardo da Vinci’s favourite cheese.

There are only 4 producers (possibly 5 following a recent spat) with only one farmhouse producer rearing all 3 animals on her farm

The Producers


(non-exhaustive, and only those that I have personally visited):

Vigneti Massa (Walter Massa – “The Original”)

  • The legendary Walter Massa spearheaded the revival of the Timorasso grape first releasing in 1986.
  • Vigneti Massa have 3 single vineyard Timorasso (“Cru”), a blend of vineyards and an early harvest Picolo Derthona.

Vigneti Repetto (Gian Paolo Repetto – “The Engineer”)

  • Organic wine, precisely made.
  • Gian Paolo Repetto is the head of the local Colli Tortonesi consortium and helped campaign for the official recognition of “Derthona” as the DO.
  • As ex-engineer, he uses technology to avoid using chemicals (and keeping it natural).
  • Look out for the geometric labels representing of the character of each wine (rounded, sharp, left of centre).

La Colombera (Elena Semino : “The Queen” of Timorasso)

  • Agriculture focused, minimal intervention.
  • Elisa Semino, “Queen of Timorasso”, is a 3rd generation of winemaker, among the 5 producers to revive the indigenous Timorasso grape, and one of the few female producers of Timorasso.
  • Look out for the flagship single vineyard “Il Montino” made since 2006.

Claudio Mariotto – the Largest producer

  • One of the largest producers in the region and a great starting point to understand the full range of wines produced in the region.
  • Rustic tasting room where you’ll be tasting wines in the garage alongside his motorbikes and old furniture.

Ezio Poggio – the Outlier

  • The southernmost and highest altitude (450-600m) vineyards
  • Certified organic, hand harvested, with the philosophy of “wine as tradition, innovation, modern technology” and dedicated to reviving Timorasso.
  • Tastings available in their winery
  • Look out for “Archetipo” the winery’s first Timorasso.

San Leto (Daniele Ricci) – Natural, intense, characterful

  • Family-run business founded by grandparents Carlo and Clementina in 1929 who bought 4 ha of land.
  • Now managed by Daniele who converted the 11ha to organic and produces one of the widest range of Timorasso in the region (both in number and style)
  • The vinification is characterized by long maceration on the skins, aging in underground amphorae, acacia barrels.

Cascina Montagnola – the Charming

  • One of the most charming producers in the region with just one regular Timorasso release.
  • What makes Cascina Montagnola exceptional is not just the charm of founder Donatella Gianotti, but the ability to book a 10 year vertical tasting of Timorasso at the winery to experience the vintage variations and how it ages.

I Carpini (the “Horbeam” trees)

  • Holistic approach and studying the interaction of the fungus/roost/yeasts/insects on their vineyard ecosystem.
  • Use of old oak & concrete eggs, wild yeast fermentation and minimal use of sulphites.
  • The new stylised labels were a lockdown project, each one representing a different aspect of the vineyard
  • Look out for their orange Timorasso Timox aged in clay amphora

Valli Unite – the Hippies

  • Valli Unite are kind of the hippy/kibbutz of Colli Tortonesi (my view, they may not agree, or like this description).
  • They describe themselves as: “multifunctional peasant cooperative consisting of a nucleus of 30 people who live on agriculture, breeding and viticulture.”
  • This cooperative of workers run an agriturismo accommodation, excellent restaurant, winery and deli selling local and organic produce).

See “Producers” section for a more comprehensive list of Derthona Timorasso producers

The events

Keep an eye out for any events like the Cellar Tour events (last one took place in June 2022) and the annual Derthona 2.0 featuring over 50 producers.

In the last few years, as Derthona Timorasso has gained international recognition, there are regular tastings throughout Italy at various food & wine festivals, including a large participation at Vinitaly.

I recommend following individual producers’ social media accounts and the Colli Tortonesi consortium for information on upcoming tastings.

24 Hours in Tortona

(you will need a car to take full advantage)



Check out La Colombera in town, or their tasting room on the outskirts. There should also be time to check out Mariotto close by.



Located on the outskirts of Timorasso and one of the producers’ favourites.



Visit Repetto nearby and if time, take in another winery in the region (Massa if you can secure an appointment)



Aroma Wine bar for an aperitivo. There is always one local Timorasso available by the glass, and further on request. I have discovered some of the smaller producers here.

Look out for their own brand of Gin that uses Massa’s Timorasso leaves.

Degusteria Forlino, Anna Ghisolifi or Osteria Billis (reservation recommended). All have an excellent and extensive list of local Timorasso wines.

Restaurants/Bars/Wine Stores

Town Centre:

Anna Ghisolfi

1 Via Giulia (Restaurant)

Degusteria Forlino

14 via Edmondo de Amicis (Restaurant)

Osteria Billis

5 Viale Piave (Restaurant)

La Colombera (city centre)

17 Corso Montebello (Wine Store + Tasting)

Civico 4

4 Via Calvino (Restaurant)

Further afield:

Valli Unite (Cascina Montesoro)

1 Via Montale Celli, 15050 Costa Vescovato (Restaurant & Wine Store)

Ristorante Da Giuseppe

7 via IV Novembre, 7, 15050 Montemarzino – map
The restaurant of the winery Pomodolce whose wines are available by the glass.

a consortium of local produce (wine, truffles, other produce)
dedicated to the wines of Derthona Timorasso / Colli Tortonesi
A site run by leading Timorasso advocate and expert with the world’s largest Timorasso library of over 12,000 bottles dating back to 2008. Even some producers don’t have the wines that can be found here
A great resource for more in-depth detail on the producers and wines

“The” article that coined the phrase “White Barolo” in relation to Derthona Timorasso