Published on in Approfondimenti, Traditions, Tradizioni

Nizza DOCG, the “super” Barbera

The wine Nizza DOCG is a dream turned reality, the highest quality wine of Barbera produced in the Monferrato.

After a minimum aging of eighteen months, the first bottles of Nizza DOCG were ready in July 2016. It is a “super Barbera,” vinified in purity and coming from a restricted area of the Monferrato in the hills around the homonymous city of Nizza.

THE TERRITORY

Nizza Monferrato is a city in the Asti territory, centrally located between the hills of Asti, Alba, Alessandria, and Acqui Terme. It has an ideal climate and soil for cultivating grapevines, and was recognized as part of a UNESCO World Heritage. Dolcetto, moscato, brachetto, cortese, freisa, and grignolino are also grown in this area, but barbera has always represented the territory more than any other. The territory’s geological conformation (hilly, elevation reaching three hundred and fifty meters, soils prevalently sandy-clayey and with pristine forests) has enabled the barbera variety here express itself beautifully. Today, the zone in which Nizza DOCG may be produced is composed of eighteen municipalities around the city of Nizza Monferrato, for a total of over 160 hectares (there are 720 potential hectares).

Today, forty-three producers that are part of the wine’s Association make Nizza DOCG. It is made from 100% barbera grapes grown on the most ideal soils for this variety.

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THE HISTORY

The new Nizza DOCG denomination was created after years of intense work. Let’s take a look at the principle points in its history.

2000 – The Nizza denomination can appear on labels beginning with the new millennium. Up until this year, it could only be included on the label together with “Barbera.” Nizza was actually a subzone of Barbera d’Asti before, a recognition given to a particularly ideal zone for a specific variety. Barbera d’Asti “Nizza” was different compared to Barbera d’Asti: it could only be attributed to a Barbera Superiore, or a Barbera d’Asti aged for at least one year, at least six months of which in oak barrels.

2002 – The association Produttori del Nizza was formed. Still today, its guiding objective is to valorize and promote the Nizza denomination.

2008 – Barbera d’Asti receives DOCG denomination

In 2008, Barbera d’Asti ascends to Italy’s highest denomination, the Denomination of Controlled and Guaranteed Origins. It is the most important recognition of quality and geographic indication for a wine. The Nizza subzone was also included in the Barbera d’Asti’s DOCG.

2014 – Nizza becomes an “independent” wine

After much work on the text of its regulations, 2014 marks the year in which the wine is completely autonomous, with a name that emphasizes its uniqueness and strong ties to the territory: Nizza DOCG.

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Why Nizza DOCG?

To answer this question, we need to look at two crucial points:

  1. Vocation and tradition
  2. Regulations

VOCATION AND TRADITION

Nizza DOCG’s zone is certainly one of the territories in the Monferrato that has contributed most to the history of Barbera. For example, one of the first official recognitions of this wine appears in a 17th century document conserved in the city hall of Nizza Monferrato. The zone of Nizza is historically one of the most important for the Barbera variety. The best hills and exposition have always been destined for its cultivation.

REGULATIONS

To truly understand Nizza DOCG, one must know its regulations, called the disciplinare, which are strict compared to its cousin Barbera d’Asti’s. The biggest difference is in the blend: a Barbera wine may use up to 10% red grapes cultivated in Piedmont (like nebbiolo, cabernet sauvignon, freisa, dolcetto…), while Nizza must be in purezza, or 100% barbera. In addition, the alcohol level cannot be boosted in unfavorable vintages—instead, the wine is not produced at all.