There was a time when one of the most praised and widespread varieties planted in Piedmont was a grape with which many people today are unfamiliar: Timorasso. When replanting vineyards after the devastation caused by phylloxera in the 19th-century, many growers in Piedmont – particularly in the hills of Colli Tortonesi – chose to focus their efforts on the high-yielding Cortese grape, and Timorasso was almost forgotten. That is until the early 1980s when producer Walter Massa recognized the exceptional potential of this rare and unique variety, and essentially single-handedly brought it back from the brink of extinction. Since then, Timorasso has very much been enjoying a renaissance, and why would it not? When made with care, the wines offer the rare combination of freshness, depth and complexity.

Timorasso is native to south-east Piedmont, an area closer to the moderating influence of the Ligurian Sea and the wines from this area reflect their cool, coastal terroir and sandy soils. Growing Timorasso in the Langhe region, as winemaker and more recent champion of Timorasso Virna Borgogno has chosen to do, is a challenge due to the continental climate of hot summers, cold winters and chalky, limestone soils. The wine is aptly named “Sto Fuori”, fuori being the Italian expression for the “bit of madness” in Virna’s project.

The flip side of madness, however, is genius, and Virna’s genius for producing a beautiful, terroir-driven wine from Timorasso is clear. Grown at 400m elevation, the heat of the summer sun is tempered, so that the lush yellow fruit and tremendous body characteristic of this varietal are balanced by freshness and high acidity. Cool fermentation in the cellar and aging on the fine lees add even more depth and complexity. Timorasso has been compared to Chenin Blanc for its textural quality and to Riesling for its citrusy freshness; it resembles both in its ability to age, over time developing the same honey and petrol notes of these wines.

Along with this intriguing white wine, we are happy to have one of Virna’s exceptional Barolos. The 2017 “Noi” is a careful weaving together of fruit from different vineyards – the combination of great terroir and winemaking expertise in which the sum becomes greater than its parts. Aged in oak barrels for 18 months, in neutral tanks and in bottle before release, this is a wine meant for earlier enjoyment.

Virna 2021 ‘StoFuori’ Timorasso, Langhe Bianco
Retail: $36.95 / btl

Virna 2017 ‘Noi’ Barolo, Piedmont
Retail: $69.95 / btl (6btl/cs)

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The Wines

Virna 2021 ‘StoFuori’ Timorasso, Langhe Bianco
Yellow straw colour with aromatics of white flower blossom, pear and crushed stone. Bright and mineral-driven on the palate with notes of orchard fruit, grapefruit, citrus peel, and almond. Very textural and expansive on the palate.


Virna 2017 ‘Noi’ Barolo, Piedmont
93 points – James Suckling, July 2021
“A fine-tannined red for the vintage with firm, polished tannins that are refined in texture. Medium to full body. Savory finish. Needs at least two years to soften, but very pretty already.”

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About Virna Borgogno

The Borgogno estate comprises 12 hectares of vineyards rich in history and renowned for quality. Located immediately north of the village of Barolo, it has been the family home of Lodovico and his daughters Virna and Ivana Borgogno, since 1720.

60,000 bottles are produced annually, 70% of which is Barolo, from 8 hectares of prime vineyard parcels. The most prized vineyards are the ‘cru’ Sarmassa (next to Cerequio) and Cannubi-Boschis (which is adjacent to the home). Classically styled Barbera & Dolcetto d’Alba, and more modern Langhe Arneis and Rosso come from a variety of small vineyard holdings throughout the district, totalling an additional 4 hectares. A new cellar was completed in time for the 2005 vintage.

From the 1950s, Lodovico began introducing new practices in order to extract the highest possible quality from his vineyards. In 2001 Virna became the owner & winemaker, recognized by the addition of her name to the estate. Now, she and her sister Ivana honour the tradition of Barolo while highlighting their wines’ qualities with modern winemaking methods. A variety of large oak (barrique, tonneaux & botti) is used for aging, with the intention of capturing the subtlety and texture of Nebbiolo, not simply raw power. Not meaning to sound cliché, but these are indeed very feminine, very expressive wines — taut, aromatic, ethereal Barolo.

Cannubi Boschis is one of the iconic ‘cru’ of the village of Barolo, with only Virna & Sandrone historically bottling. But as of the 2015 vintage, the wine will be known only as Cannubi. Why the change? Cannubi itself is a large and prestigious vineyard, resulting in several surrounding vineyards (including Boschis, Muscatel, San Lorenzo, and Valletta) appending Cannubi to their names. No doubt this has caused some confusion for consumers. Add to this, the fact that one of the larger wineries in the region wanted to increase production of Cannubi, and well, you end up in court. The end result is that all the various Cannubi vineyards are now collectively known only as Cannubi.

Virna’s Cannubi is from the same blocks of estate-owned vineyard as always (formerly Cannubi Boschis). She also produces a powerful ‘cru’ Sarmassa, and Barolo di Barolo – from 2 cru vineyards, 85% Preda /15% Sarmassa. Virna’s ‘normale’ Barolo is named ‘Noi’, meaning ‘us’ or ‘we’, acknowledging that her’s is a shared craft. The estate-owned vineyards providing the fruit for Barolo Noi include Cannubi (Boschis), Preda and Sarmassa in Barolo, as well as Cerviano-Merli and Sottocastello in the commune of Novello. Cannubi and Sarmassa are meant to express the terroir of the individual cru, with little intervention in the cellar; while Barolo di Barolo is a more modern style, raised in a mix of wood, to find the right character. Noi is an elegant, classic, regional expression of Barolo.


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Virna Borgogno is represented in Ontario by The Vine Agency.

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