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SONS OF MONFERRATO: Nizza Docg in the words of President Gianluca Morino

18 gennaio 2015

“Translated from an article by Augusto Gentilli, published by World Wine Passion on 9 January, 2015″

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This is the century of the image, of standardisation, of nothing for everything: nevertheless, and fortunately, there are some small but solid areas of resistance which are working to bring the best of our past into the third millennium, preserving its identity while striving to improve its characteristics when this is appropriate.

I find the story of Nizza Docg to be an excellent example of this way of approaching the future and the new challenges that this offers our society.
So here it is; the story of a journey and a territory – the home of Nizza – as told by one of its main characters, Gianluca Morino, winemaker and President of the Associazione Produttori del Nizza.

Nizza has recently become an independent Docg: exactly what will be the highlights of the production regulations? What’s going to change in relation to the previous appellation, Barbera d’Asti Docg subzone Nizza?

“Nizza has recently attained acknowledgement of its own regulations and these will provide its’ real identity card.
The passage from Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza Docg to Nizza Docg is characterised by numerous changes.

-The first is the name: simply “Nizza” because this is the name of the area that we want to promote and defend via the wine itself.
-The second important thing is that it is made of 100% Barbera, although this has always been one of the parameters upheld and observed within the Association of Producers of Nizza, who have been making their Nizza with 100% Barbera since 2000.
-Then there will be the possibility to classify a Nizza aged for at least 30 months, a minimum of 12 of which in wood, as Nizza Riserva. This Riserva has been introduced because it highlights Nizza’s great potential for evolution and most of the Nizza wines already available on the market come together under this classification. 
-The fourth difference in the new regulations is that this is the first Italian wine in which neither concentrated musts nor grape sugar can be added to increase the alcohol content. 
To produce an excellent Nizza you have to have perfectly ripe Barbera grapes, in order to achieve a natural balance between acidity and body and this isn’t something that can be improved by simply increasing the alcohol content”. 

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Over the past few decades the Barbera grape variety has made considerable, well-deserved progress which has projected it rightfully among the most important grape varieties on the Italian and international wine scene. What, in your opinion, are the characteristics of Nizza Docg – and the area where it’s made – that make it different from the other Piedmont Docg wines made with this grape variety?

“Nizza is the birthplace of choice of the Barbera grape variety as was already evident 50/60 years ago, when almost all the Barbera made was sold in bulk. Barbera di Nizza already existed way back then and was a wine with greater expression, concentration and cellar life.
Nizza is the combined product of the land, climate and, obviously, the grape variety.
The climate is among the most favourable, with little rainfall and excellent ventilation, even in summer.
The soil is a mixture of marls of different origin, with a good balance of organic substance and available minerals. It extends deep down and drains nicely, with no heavy stone on the surface.
All these characteristics are perfect for Barbera.
The vineyards are situated at altitudes between 120 and 350 m above sea level, not high enough to result in excessive limitation of ripening, particularly in cooler years”.

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What do you and the Associazione Produttori del Nizza, of which you are President, consider to be the essential elements to communicate the most important characteristics of Nizza Docg to Italian and foreign winelovers?

“The main communication element will be the name:
Nizza Docg, because, at long last, a Barbera has been used to create a wine linked with a territory as its finest expression. And Barbera has just the right sensitivity to narrate the territory, using all its variability.
The fact that we have worked for so many years to achieve a series of excellent Nizza wines (the Associazione Produttori del Nizza has 39 members) with considerable similarities despite coming from different vineyards and wineries.
Our success in having raised and developed a very united group of winemakers who work together on the Nizza project and who are gradually becoming more and more open to innovation and to foreign markets.
I personally think that the other aspects – such as the use of 100% Barbera, no increase in alcohol and grape yields – have to retain their importance but be seen as purely technical.
I don’t see them as being essential to communication”.

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In view of your experience, what benefits does the birth of Nizza Docg bring to winemakers and consumers?

“Recognition and the possibility to be localised when people talk about Nizza, if we are successful in doing a good job in this sense.
We will no longer be one of the numerous types of Barbera, but THE Barbera par excellence.
This will eliminate all the preconceptions in terms of price and quality that are still very strong on some markets”.

Which markets do you think will show most interest in this important expression of Barbera?

“The same ones where Nizza is already sold and which already know something about and consume it: USA, Canada, Japan, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands, Estonia and the Northern European markets”.

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I find Piedmont’s restaurant sector to be one of those that focuses most attention on proposing locally-made wines. Would you agree with me? How does the Consorzio del Nizza intend to consolidate this essential partnership?

“I agree very strongly with you. And restaurants are among the main consumers of Nizza, with 50% of the wine being drunk in Piedmont.
Piedmont’s restaurant sector is exceptionally professional and offers a high level of quality. It has been supporting Barbera for years, partly because it is the easiest wine to pair with local dishes. Restaurants were buying our wines before they were called Nizza and we want to work and cooperate closely with them. With this in mind, three years ago we launched #orizzonteNizzainTour, an event which enables us to take the winemakers to meet the consumers, in the restaurants that share our aims. Four wines and four dishes paired in the presence of the winemakers, who talk about their wine, their wineries and, consequently, themselves”.

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Bureaucracy is usually seen as one of the major causes of the current economic crisis. As President of the Associazione Produttori del Nizza, what do think could be done to make things more streamlined and effective?

“We have reached a point where bureaucracy takes up more than 40% of a winemaker’s time. It’s too much. With Federazione Italiana Vignaioli Indipendenti (the Italian Federation of Independent Winemakers), which many of our members belong to, we are seeking a way to simplify things without influencing control and tracking activities. Keeping registers and the deadlines for filling them in, in between everything that has to be done in the cellar, are a sore point for small and medium-sized wineries, especially during the grape harvest. An effort should be made to simplify things for those who want to work and who, as diligent businessmen, pay their taxes and the wages of their staff regularly”.

Southern Piedmont has suffered the effects of flavescence dorée in recent years. What is the current situation and what do you think is the best way to fight the disease?

“The situation relating to Flavescenza dorée in Piedmont is particularly severe. We are losing whole areas of vineyard due to this disease and no one in Piedmont has really done anything to stop it for the past 20 years.
Other Regions have taken action and in many cases the effects of regression of the disease are clearly visible. Here there seems to be an aversion to eliminating untended vineyards and even to removing diseased vines, so it’s obvious that we’ll never succeed in debilitating the disease.
The regional strategy employed by the Regional Plant Health Service has been to conserve the infected breeding areas and the infected vineyards. The only thing that it’s compulsory to do in Piedmont is “remove shoots that show signs of the disease”? Funny, don’t you think?
There are far too many personal interests involved so no real strategy to fight flavescence dorée has ever been employed”.

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