Can grapes go extinct? What happens if a vine is at risk of being lost? We tell how it works by telling the stories of Timorasso, Turca and Perricone: three grapes saved by far-sighted winemakers.
Well yes, even grapes, like any other plant or animal species, can become extinct and therefore disappear forever without the possibility of being recovered. Let's see the history of three native Italian vines: Timorasso, Turca and Perricone.
The story of Timorasso has a hero: Walter Massa. An indigenous white grape variety from the province of Alessandria, Timorasso has found its perfect habitat in the Tortona hills.
Until the 1980s, in Piedmont, priority was given to black grape varieties in the most suitable wine-growing areas. Later, when the desire to also produce white wines emerged, Cortese reigned supreme, simpler to grow and more productive. Timorasso therefore risked extinction, but who believed in this great vine was Massa, a vintner and winemaker who wrote the history of Italian viticulture precisely by believing in timorasso and thus allowing its survival. It is a white grape that gives wines of great character and value, among the best in Italy. Since his first vinification in 1987, many things have changed: today there are around thirty producers who, under his guidance, produce Timorasso, (in the Colli Tortonesi DOC since 2015), changed to Derthona from 2022 as proposed by Massa himself, who in calling the denomination with the ancient name of the Colli Tortonesi it intends to further enhance the connection with the territory. And he explains: « I defend the originality of this vine in its cradle of origin, leaving viticultural entrepreneurs from all over the world free to use this genetics in any corner of the earth, because genetics belong to humanity, but the territory belongs to those lives it, walks it, loves it."
In our selections of niche wines the wines of Walter Massa and other producers from the Colli Tortonesi, from Timorasso, could not be missing.
Despite the name, we are in Veneto and Trentino: the diffusion of this grape is limited to the Belluno area and more to Valsugana. It is a practically unknown variety, whose name does not refer to its geographical origin, but derives from the Trentino dialect, where the word "Turkish" means hard.
The recovery of this grape is due, in Veneto, to the winery of the Counts Emo Capodilista, La Montecchia: the objective that the winery in the province of Padua set itself was precisely to give new life to a wine pearl like the Turkish one , a vine historically attested in the Padua area, a grape that is still completely unknown today, which we at Sommelier Wine Box also enhance by offering it in our selections of personalized bottles based on everyone's tastes.
In Trentino, however, its recovery is mainly due to the research of the well-known Agricultural Institute of San Michele all'Adige, even if here too there are very few wineries that valorise it by cultivating it.
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Perricone is an ancient native vine of western Sicily. Present in the area since the time of the Greeks, it is a variety cultivated for centuries between Palermo, Trapani and Agrigento.
Its misfortune began in the nineteenth century, when the phylloxera epidemic decimated the Sicilian vineyards, and Perricone was very sensitive to the insect. From the mid-twentieth century, however, with the decline of Marsala, local viticulture experienced a period of profound crisis, so the vineyards were uprooted in favor of nero d'avola, supported by international criticism. Today, only 0.3% of the Sicilian vineyard is planted with Perricone, and the majority of the grapes are used as blending wine. About ten years ago a small group of winemakers began to recover the few remaining old vineyards and resume winemaking. Following the example of these young people, other small companies have gradually joined the few that have started to recover.
The recovery and valorization of this grape still remains a challenge today, so we are happy to offer in our selections wines from Perricone, great ambassadors of the terroir of a corner of Sicily.
One of the wineries that fights most for the valorization of Perricone is that of Marilena Barbera, in Menfi, whose pearls we offer in our selections.