It’s only been a few months since I began working with Amistà, producer of Nizza DOCG. But one thing has already become abundantly and glaringly clear.
Wine professionals across the U.S. are still in the dark when it comes to Monferrato’s pyramid appellation system, which was announced in 2010 and launched in 2014.
Ever since Italian and French ampelographers began to proselytize about the virtues of the Barbera grape in the second half of the 19th century, Monferrato and Asti province have been considered the variety’s spiritual homeland.
It was back in 2010, when a group of American bloggers and I attended the “Barbera Meeting” convention in the village of Nizza Monferrato, that the Barbera d’Asti consortium announced the creation of the highest tier in their appellation hierarchy — the Nizza DOCG.
In the Bricco di Nizza, the central subzone of the Nizza DOCG, the soils are identical to those found in La Morra, the largest commune for the production of Barolo. That’s clay-rich soil, above, and limestone, below. Other areas in the DOCG, to the south and north, have sandstone soils, also ideal for Barbera.
Previously, Barbera was vinified in Asti province as Barbera del Monferrato DOC or Barbera d’Asti DOCG, an appellation that included a “superiore” designation (originally in reference to superior alcohol content) and single-vineyard “cru” designations.
With the launch of the Nizza DOCG four years later, Monferrato now had a super star category.
For generations, Italian wine insiders have recognized the greater depth of Barbera farmed in Monferrato as opposed to Alba, the land of Nebbiolo. And true Barbera connoisseurs knew that within the Barbera d’Asti DOCG, the wines raised in and around the village of Nizza Monferrato were considered the top expressions of Barbera d’Asti.
The soils in Nizza Monferrato, and in particular, along the central crest known as the Bricco del Nizza, are identical to those found in La Morra, the largest commune for the production of Barolo. And for more than a generation now, growers there have made Nizza-designated wines, which many, myself included, have found to be the most compelling exemplars of Barbera.
With the new DOCG, this de facto category had now been codified.
So why is it, nearly a decade after the launch in 2014, that American wine professionals still don’t know about the new Nizza DOCG?
It’s time for all of us, on both sides of the Atlantic, to stop just saying Barbera and shout out NIZZA!
Say it with me: NEETZ-zah.