Very old Barbera vines in the Colli Tortonese.

Oltretorrente means outside the stream of life

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Kind of dreamy, the life that Chiara and Michele have put in place, moving to their own home in the countryside in Piedmont after working for some big companies, a lovely place to raise their kids, to live peacefully in an unspoiled spot, to realize their desire to make their own wine.  Perhaps this is where the needle gets dragged across the LP record with a screech, if you get the reference. The farming life is much harder than it looks. I’m pretty sure about that, having visited on a clear and mild afternoon in May in the fullness of onrushing summer, when there’s no freezing rain to slog through up and down the muddy rows of vines, no frosts, no creeping mildew, no hail in sight. But things seem to be going really well at Oltretorrente. They are rescuing some fantastic old vines, much in need of TLC, but recuperating nicely. Those old vines are producing great fruit, and the winemaking (very much along the lines of less-is-more) is going really well. The results are outstanding, from which we’ve picked 3 wines. Timorasso is a local grape, a specialty worth seeking out from just the very few producers who don’t yeast or otherwise muck it up; many of us know the wine made by Walter Massa – if you think that’s good then you should try this one. There’s a really fine very-old-vine Barbera, a standout in a region up to its ears in Barbera. And a compelling Barbera with 10% Dolcetto; we don’t really look for blended wines, but this is so tasty, and so well suited to the table that we couldn’t resist.

Timorasso vines in the Colli Tortonese, and a good view of the limestone-rich clay soil. And unlike the monoculture (only vines) in Barolo and Barbaresco, here you can see some of the diversity of farming that's still practiced outside the most famous wine districts. Jamie Wolff

Oltretorrente 2013 Rosso Colli Tortonese (Barbera 90%, Dolcetto 10%)

Barbera with 10% Dolcetto, and a great success, a delicious and easy-drinking  wine that could genuinely be marketed with images of family and friends around a table – you know, laughing and carrying-on (sometimes the marketers have the good sense to pick real-looking people – I’m not talking about Claudia Schiffer’s house), enjoying their food and wine. Jamie Wolff

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Oltretorrente 2011 Barbera Superiore Colli Tortonese

As noted above, there are a zillion Barberas made in Piemonte; of the quarter-zillion or so that we’ve tasted,  many still show too much new wood, and / or are too extracted, over-worked, and in general are just trying too hard to be what the Italians call “important” wines. This example is intense, rich, and structured, with a natural depth and presence that we associate with old vines – a certain savory style of Barbera with a bass note of blackberry fruit; a wintery wine perhaps, but also vivid and bright and lifted. It has terrific energy and cut, and it’s not heavy or fatiguing. A very fine wine! Jamie Wolff

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Oltretorrente 2013 Timorasso Colli Tortonese

Timorasso is a golden-colored grape from Piedmont's Colli Tortonese. Aside from Gavi and Moscato, Piedmont is not well known for white wines, and Timorasso has a bit more richness and weight compared to most white wine grapes. There's a bit of spice and an almost nutty character that complements marmalade and orange fruit tones. This wine is very interesting to try as an example of an heirloom variety that almost went extinct, and it is extremely capable at the dinner table for anything from seafood, Middle Eastern food, or rich pastas.  John Rankin

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