Why Be Curious? A serious Croatina from the leading producer in the Colli Tortonesi (southeast Piemonte). Croatina — also called Bonarda in the Oltrepò Pavese — grows widely in northern Italy but is taken seriously by few producers. Jancis Robinson mentions only two, including Walter Massa, in Wine Grapes. Jancis is wrong, however, about Croatina best being drink young — at least Massa’s Croatina! This is structured, serious wine that takes a couple of years to unwind and continues to evolve for at least several years after that. This wine, along with Barbera ‘Monleale’ and Freisa ‘L’Avvelenata’, demonstrates that Walter Massa is an able and versatile rossista (red wine maker), in addition to having the magic touch with Timorasso.
Produttore / Producer: Walter Massa is the real deal: a contadino (farmer) with deep family roots in his native Colli Tortonesi who’s usually plowing his vineyards or buzzing around his cellar when someone arrives for a visit. He’ll then stop to spend hours showing around, pouring wines for, and talking with the continual waves of journalists, sommeliers, importers, buyers, and just plain fans who make their way to his village of Monleale in the southeast corner of Piemonte. Massa is universally known as the Maestro of Timorasso — he rescued it from obscurity and near-extinction and now leads a mini-renaissance of the variety in the Colli Tortonesi. But he also produces amazing and distinctive reds from the local varieties Barbera, Croatina, Freisa, and Nebbiolo. Besides being one of Italy’s truly great producers, he’s a stellar example of what the Italians call a personaggio — a real personality. We are lucky to have him and his wines.
Vigna / Vineyard: From several Croatina plots around the village of Monleale. Clayey and some calcerous soils.
Cantina / Cellar: Native yeasts. Aging in inert containers and then large casks for about two years. No filtration.
Il Vino / The Wine: Complex, tightly wound nose (even with some time in bottle). Ferrous, with a taut roasted cranberry presence. Clean and precise, with Assam tea tannins and notable length. Very serious. Pertichetta is the diminutive form of a local Piemontese dialect word for hectare (from pertica, a unit of measure for both length and area that dates back to Roman times).
A Tavola… / At the Table… Use it as you would a Barolo or Barbaresco. As with serious Nebbiolo, the tannins are notable when the wine is young (i.e., three or four years old), so pair it with meat (especially braised meat) or aged cheeses to help tame those tannins. Or wait a couple of years and marvel at how serious Croatina unwinds, relaxes, and improves.
Vigneti Massa Croatina ‘Pertichetta’
Vigna / Vineyard
Nome / Name: Three plots around Monleale (Colli Tortonesi DOC):
Pertichetta 0.32 hectares, planted 2008, clayey soils, western exposure.
Scaldapulce: 0.15 hectares, planted 1994, clayey soils, eastern exposure.
Valverta: 1.65 hectares, planted 2005, clay-calcareous soils, northern exposure.
Quota / Altitude: 250-280 m / 920 ft.
Suoli / Type of soils: Clayey and some calcerous soils.
Esposizione / Exposure: Various.
Vitigni / Varieties: 100% Croatina.
Età delle viti / Vine age: 5-20 years old.
Allevamento / Trellis system: Guyot.
Metodo di vendemmia / Harvest technique: Hand harvested.
Metodo agricolo / Agricultural technique: Lotta integrata (sustainable).
Cantina / Cellar
Lieviti / Yeasts: Native.
Élevage: In inert containers for 10 months and then in large cask (botti grandi) for another 12 months to promote micro-oxygenation.
Chiarificazione, filtrazione / Clarification, filtratration: None.
Altri prodotti aggiunti? / Other products added?: None.
Gradazione alcolica / Alcoholic %: 14%.
Tappo e bottiglia / Closure and bottle: Natural cork, 750 ml Burgundy bottle.