Vigneti Massa in Monleale -- SUSTAINABLE!
It is undoubtedly the sound and fury of Italian sommeliers: Massa's Timorasso. Modigliani curves (this wines is full bodied) focused by the angled faces; some fruit, a warm minerality, and all carried by an acidity that recalls a heavyweight with agile footwork. It’s hard not to get worked up about Walter Massa’s wines: he had a vision for a variety nobody wanted, worked in obscurity for years, rescued the grape, and doesn't talk about himself but about the territory of Colli Tortonesi. When you get lost going there, start asking people 100 km out and they know and love hi,, from the gas station guy to the producer next to him.
Even Jancis Robinson, who mostly saves her love for the French, is titillated:
"I absolutely loved this white wine [2006 Massa Derthona Timorasso] and found more aromas and flavours, and more pleasure, as I drank it over the course of a few days...Very inviting spiced honeyed nose and some creamy...Nutty, citrus, with just discernible floral and apricot notes. Full of flavour and yet restraint, cool and fresh and lingeringly elegant and aromatic...as the week went by, I found even more flavours emerging – white flowers, ginger, mineral and still nutty. I also noted a firmness in the texture but it was still alluringly creamy. Long, powerful and sophisticated with a gently floral finish."
The zone of the Colli Tortonesi is composed of various soils (clay, chalk, stone, sand) and perched around the abandoned hill top town of Monleale Alto, around 200-300 meters. Walter is quite the host, and this sleepy place comes alive through his passion. Walk down, and then back up, the steep vineyards and into the cantina, have lunch with his Mom and his family, uncork say 12 bottles of various years, make nice with the journalists and kids running around, nudge an older aunt because you’re dizzy with joy, ask Milan’s top wine rep how he sells so much, smile and thank the vineyard workers having lunch, praise the two women who personally took care of the new vine planting: a whirlwind of nonchalance and serious wine.
In the corner of these rooms, you catch your breath, triple-fisted with a ‘99 Croatina, ‘02 Barbera Monleale, and a Timorasso whose age you have to guess. Someone joins you, you can only nod No!, in disbelief, and Yes!, in awe of being in the presence of one of Italy’s great lands, and a man in touch with that land, a man who is half circus conductor and half prophet grounded with vision. His feet are roots; his arms spring shoots; his fingers offer you another glass or point out something in the vineyard.
He produces amazing reds as well from the local grapes (Croatina, Barbera, Freisa, Nebbiolo). Most bottles of Barbera fail to answer the question of whether the grape, with a touch of wood, can truly age (instead of merely keep). Massa’s Cru Barbera Monleale may be the start of an answer; we’ve tasted examples going back 15 years, and we brought in some library wines for you to taste. His Cru Barbera in steel is Sentieri, with light-saber Barbera fruit. His entry-level Barbera we bring in under the label FUSO, a daily drinker that goes with everything and is priced right.