Intense and international like James Bond, Nizza Docg is on the top of Barbera Pyramid
As we work our way up the Barbera d’Asti quality pyramid (and it you’ve read our primer on that pyramid, you already know that “quality” probably isn’t the best term to use to describe it), we eventually find ourselves at the tippy-top. Past the crowd-pleasing, versatile, and talented fruitiness of Barbera d’Asti, to the surprisingly hearty, hardy, and powerful Superiore level, to the most refined Barbera version of all – the relatively new Nizza DOCG.
If Barbera d’Asti is the King of Pop Wine in Northern Italy, and Babera d’Asti Superiore is the underrated muscular superhero of Barbera, then the Nizza DOCG is the suave, serious. international man of mystery… it’s the James Bond of Barbera. Picture Daniel Craig’s Bond saving the world while hardly getting any dirt on his tuxedo, and you’ll have a pretty good personification of Barbera from this DOCG.
Like Bond’s backstory, our DOCG hails from a somewhat violent and troubled history, after which it found success. Nizza was officially recognized as its own wine DOCG in 2012, but it’s named after the town of Nizza Monferrato, which has a history that dates back nearly eight hundred years. The incredible thing about this village is the fact that it’s still around; like our British spy hero, it’s proven impossible to kill. And like Bond, it had a difficult childhood before finding its groove; from its founding and through the seventeenth century, the city was sacked, looted, razed, or otherwise invaded about ten times.
Nizza Monferrato finally saw consistent prosperity under the House of Savoy in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, becoming known for its silk production. The town was eventually recognized militarily when it was awarded the Silver Medal for the Military Valor for its resistence to Fascism during World War II.
One of a kind
Just as James Bond is an instantly recognizable, unique character in all of fiction, Nizza wine has uniqueness; in fact, it’s a defining quality at it the very core of how the wine has to be made. First, our wines must be produced from one hundred percent Barbera grapes, coming only from the eighteen municipalities in the Nizza River valley. That spot is unique even within the area that produces Barbera d’Asti Superiore: it has a relatively high altitude (between 180 and 280 meters), with soils that are rich in limestone, clay, and calcium, but poor in organic substances, all of which results in intensely flavored grapes. The area sees less rain than in Barolo, and a larger difference between day and night temperatures during the growing season (which helps the grapes retain their fresh acidity). Nizza’s vineyards also have ideal sun exposure in the region (southeast to west), making it an excellent place to ripen Barbera grapes to their full potential.
Intense and Focused
If there are two words that we could use to best describe James Bond, it would be these. They happen to be perfect adjectives to describe Barbera from the Nizza DOCG, too. Again, this is kind of “baked” into how our wines have to be produced. First, they must be at least 13% alcohol by volume (there’s the intensity for you), and 13.5% at a minimum if a specific vigna (vineyard name) appears on the label. Next, they have longer and stricter aging requirements: a of minimum 18 months, including 6 months in barrel. For Riserva level, the minimum is 30 months, including 12 months in barrel. What those mean for us wine lovers is that Nizza Barbera wines are more powerful, and more focused in structure, than most of their Barbera d’Asti Superiore counterparts. That additional structure means that they will be able to take on heartier foods, and will age longer, too.
The other thing that Nizza Barbera and James Bond have in common? They both exude class. Just as Bond is capable of being both tough and tender while looking good, Nizza wines carry their power and aging potential with an impeccable sense of style. A red wine’s equivalent of a tux and a luxury watch are elegant aromas of dried herbs, notes of sweet wood spices, and darker, deeper fruit flavors. This Barbera has ample amounts of all three, and that’s what makes it a more serious, refined wine than your typical Barbera.
Of course, to truly be classy, one has to be able not to take oneself too seriously. Thankfully, like Bond dishing out his famous one-liners, Barbera from Nizza still has a mischievous, playful, and irresistibly approachable side, too. Just as Bond is never hides his dry-witted British origins, Nizza still speaks with an Asti accent, and is true to its roots; there’s no doubt, in tasting the vibrant, energetic cherry fruit flavors of it, that you are enjoying Northern Italian Barbera.
Finally, the best thing about a James Bond film is that it’s thrilling to experience. Nizza wines have their own gustatory version of fast-paced action sequences, but to fully understand that level of thrill, you’re going to have to get a glass of one into your mouth…