Posted on: 02-07-2014

Vinitaly is always a good chance to keep up with trends, in between tastings and meetings there are always a few presentations, worth attending.
This year, in a crowded room at the stand of Consorzio Tutela Vini d'Asti e Monferrato, within the busy hall of Piedmont, we were among those eager to know what's new under the #Nizza sky.

"Is Nizza DOCG introducing a new set of Rules of production? Or is it Nizza breaking up from the Consorzio?" some of us wondered.

"No" and "no" advised Gianluca Morino, president of the association of the Nizza producers, who along with journalists, traders, winelove

rs and winemakers gathered to discuss the changes that will be enforced.
"The aim is to enhance the relationship between Barbera d'Asti and Nizza, one of its best territories, elevate quality, and promote its potential for ageing".

To better understand which will be the benefit of the changes to its disciplinare, let's have a look at where it all comes from. 

A brief history of Barbera d'Asti
Barbera was first mentioned in 1512 in a document from the municipality of Chieri, near Turin.

A document from the Municipal Archive of Nizza Monferrato, dated 1609, instead tells us that special delegates were sent “to the countryside of Nizza de la Paglia to taste the wine from these vineyards and, in particular, Barbera wine for the service of His Most Serene Highness, the Duke of Mantua, and to pay a fair price for them.”.

A reputation of quality that endured through the centuries: in the nineteenth century viticulture developed enormously in Piedmont with the rise of small farming estates.
The Barbera variety was chosen by many for its qualities. It produces regularly and has a high must yield, it makes wines with good color and alcohol content, and the high fixed acidity of its wine – above all back then – meant that it kept well.
Barbera (or "La Barbera" in its piemontese nickname) is nowadays the most cultivated red grape in Piemonte, covering almost the 35% of all vineyards in the region, a total of 50.000 ha. 

The Varietal
Barbera is not a “cosmopolitan” cultivar, and it achieves the best results in specific parts of southern Piedmont, producing wines with good body, structure and complexity.
It ripens late and is harvested between the end of September and the middle of October, it is Grows well in well-drained, well exposed sunny hillsides; the bunch is medium sized and the berry slightly oval, very rich in sugar, with a relatively thin skin that is rich in color and not very tannic.

What are Barbera wines like in the glass?
They have different nuances depending on the territory and vineyards in which the grapes were grown, and the winemaking techniques that are used.
Nevertheless, common organoleptic characteristics would be:
color: ruby red, particularly intense in the Superiore types, that tends to garnet with aging.

nose and aroma: very fruity, reminiscent of cherries, plums and dark berries, evolving into scents of jam and fruit in alcohol, followed by intense balsamic, spicy and sometimes floral notes. With barrel aging, it develops overtones of cinnamon, cocoa powder and licorice.
taste: It has a round palate with an impact of great immediacy, warmth and harmony. Ageing gives it complexity, and a wealth of sweet velvety tannins and a long finish.

Extremely versatile at the table, Barberas are excellent with hearty antipasto plates, charcuterie and medium-aged cheeses.
A young Barbera also pairs beautifully with savory fish dishes, as it has great acidity and little tannin, whereas in the Piedmont tradition Barbera d’Asti Superiore accompanies roasts and braised meat, as well as the region’s classic boiled meat.

Barbera Superiore d’Asti DOCG, Sottozona Nizza (!)
In 1970 Barbera d'Alba and Barbera d'Asti were given DOC status.

30 years later, from the 2000 harvest, within the context of the “Superiore” type of wine, three areas of particular prestige were introduced within the production zone: NIZZA, TINELLA and COLLI ASTIANI, defined by law as ”subzones”.

The town of Nizza and the 17 nearby villages mark a historically renowned growing area, particularly for the production of wines with excellent structure that can be barrel aged, a practice that is mandatory in the case of “Nizza”.

The rules of productions discipline vinegrowing and winemaking, as follows:

  • Vines must be planted on hillsides, with a south, to south-west, to south-east exposure.

  • Barbera vines need long expusure to light and warmth to mature to perfection.

  • Maximum vineyard altitude allowed: 650 mt a.s.l.

  • Minimum plant/ha: 4.000 plants.

  • Traditional growing systems: guyot or spurred cordon

Production yields: maximum 7 tons, corresponding to 49 hectolitres per hectare;
Manual harvest!

Wine characteristics:
Alcohol content by volume: 13% vol.
Minimum total acidity: 5 ‰;
Minimum net dry extract: 26 ‰;

Nizza D.O.C.G.
The association of producers, which was born spontaniously 11 years ago, now counts 39 producers, a total production of 200.000 btls of Nizza Superiore of which a good 45% is sold abroad.

The ambitious target of a 1mln bottles should be reached five years from now, but the real goal is to increase a quality production and not quantity per se.

The amended rules along with enforcing stricter regulations, also introduce "Nizza Riserva", almost a statement that Barbera can and will age beautifully!

The chart below, sums-up some of the most important changes:


NIZZA subzone current rules

Nizza DOCG rules

production area

18 municipalities in Asti province*

Same 18 municipalities

grape composition

Minimum 90% Barbera

100% Barbera

maximum yield

7 tonnes/ ha

7 tonnes/ ha

minimum alcohol

13.00% vol

13.00% vol

minimum total ageing

18 months

18 months

minimum barrel ageing

6 months

6 months



Nizza Riserva DOCG minimum ageing: 30 months of which in barrel: 12 months

The wine must be made from using 90-100% Barbera, but may be blended with other non-aromatic varieties authorized in Piedmont, up to a maximum of 10%.

But the ground-breaking addition to the disciplinary is the ban of MCR, which stands for moût concentré rectifié, or concentrated and rectified grape must. Basically, NIZZA DOCG is now the first and only appellation in Italy that disciplines the usage of grape must, by stating in the rules of production that the %vol., must be the same in the grapes and in the resulting wines. 

The name has become from a long tongue-twister "Barbera d'Asti Superiore DOCG Nizza", a more consumer friendly Nizza DOCG, to remark the correspondence between the wine and its territory and an attemp to comunicate this Barbera in simpler and more efficient way. 

The comments of many who were interviewed during the presentation at Vinitaly could be summed up in a sentence: "In the age of internet and social networks, comunication should be immediate and straightforward. Journalists and sommeliers are not anymore the target, we can reach out to a the wide audience of consumer and winelovers directly, but we must convey the right message, in a professional but not snobbish manner" . An easy concept that is, but no so easy to put in practice, epecially in the emerging markets where there is generally a  pour knowledge about Barbera itself, let alone Nizza. 

For the social media enhusiasts, #Nizza is the ashtag that collects all tweets, comments, pictures, news found across the web: let's take an active role drinking, talking and promoting Barbera!

Sources:, www.italianwinecentralcom,



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