Nizza Monferrato: For Unesco is the capital of Barbera d’Asti. Yes… may be it is true.
I can’t say for sure if a small village on the outskirts of the province of Asti can be the capital of the Barbera, as Unesco say, but it’s looking good. It has the potential.
What I want to say is that by crossing the Monferrato, the infinite space that cuts through the east side of Piedmont, we navigate through hollow hills with a few small hamlets. We end up with a pervasive, deep sense of freedom thanks to a land not marked by human intervention, as Unesco releve on the acknowledgment of Monferrato.
Sliding south into Asti, this sensation changes: hills merge with the vineyards, roofs color the landscape, human presence, even if respectful, is more evident. This change is felt more intensely during the harvest. Despite the natural discretion of these places, it’s impossible not to notice the pealing of peasants and tractors along the rows that soon will turn to red autumn colors. Inebriated by the intense smell of must, we are confronted with a lively and populous territory where the wine plays an important role.
So, after touching the places of Castiglione d’Asti, Agliano Terme, Catselnuovo Calcea, we come to Nizza Monferrato, our capital. In few steps, we overtake the arcades reaching the heart of this small city: this is the moment when we realize we are in the middle of a system of hills organized around the cultivation of the Barbera vines, a sort of navel of the world with a strong attraction for the wine and its culture.
This morphological impression is confirmed by the relationship between the Nizza Monferrato and the Barbera. Even if the history of this variety distinguished the Monferrato, representing its identity element, it’s here where it has taken shape in the most accomplished way. If the Nizza DOCG is currently facing the market, we have to go back to the past to understand the origin of this bond.
The first documented traces of Barbera date back to more than 500 years ago. From that moment on, there are a lot of witnesses who mention it. For example, it is included in the first edition of the “Ampelography”, a text where the Conte Nuvolone told about the Piedmontese ampelography in 1798. Initially spread only locally, from 19th century on, Barbera started its affirmation beyond the Italian borders, favored by the railroads that pass through Nizza Monferrato on the way to Genova’s harbours. That was it until the new revival that made to Barbera d’Asti the popular wine of excellence in the Italian wine landscape.
In conclusion, an important variety (Barbera) added to a small capital (Nizza Monferrato) combine to form a unique terroir (the Nizza one). The result? A glass of wine, but of the good ones that wait to be drank.