Nizza Monferrato Monferrato is a small attractive town lying between Belbo and Rio Nizza streams near Asti, Canelli, Alba and Acqui Terme. The built-up area is situated in a hilly landscape, a land with a mild climate particularly favourable to the cultivation of vines and therefore to the production of wine. The economy of the area is based on Commerce and Agriculture and gained its reputation of excellence with wine production, renowned DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata - controlled designation of origin) and DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita - controlled designation of origin guaranteed) grapes, such as Barbera, Dolcetto, Moscato, Brachetto, Cortese, Freisa and Grignolino.
The leading vine variety of the area is Barbera; here it finds particularly favourable pedoclimatic conditions for ripening: from its highly valued grapes, producers obtain Barbera d’Asti with special organoleptic qualities. For this reason, competent bodies recognised a very high value sub-area, the one of the 18 municipalities where “Nizza” Barbera d'Asti Superiore can be produced.
In the historic centre of Nizza Monferrato there are some particularly interesting old buildings, especially Palazzo Comunale (the town hall), dating back to the XIV-XV century and surmounted by the ancient bell tower, called by the citizens “el campanon”. In front of it, always in Piazza Martiri di Alessandria (or Piazza del Comune), there is Palazzo De Benedetti, a wonderful building of the XVIII century.
Ospedale Santo Spirito is worth seeing as well: it takes its origins from a very old building that has always hosted religious communities, and inside it there is the very small Chiesa del Santo Spirito, restored in 1877 and enriched by a wooden carved portal.
Last but not least, Palazzo Crova is the example of a noble building of the XVIII century. It includes a nice building, which is the work of the architect Robilant, and a garden surrounded by high walls. Nowadays, it is the seat of the municipal library, the Tourist Office, the Regional Wine Cellar, Nizza Hills Slow Food office, Cardo Gobbo (hunchback cardoon) of Nizza headquarters and the Association of Nizza-Barbera d’Asti producers.
The “Nizza” production zone can be divided, on the basis of soil characteristics, into four subzones.
Slightly evolved soils (Entisol), sandy loam or loamy sand, from very coarse, weakly consolidated or loose marine deposits.
The area is made up of part of the municipalities of Vinchio, Cortiglione and Incisa, part of Mombercelli and Mombaruzzo. The soil consists of highly permeable fine and coarse sands; the area lacks fertility and is poor in organic substances.
Slightly evolved soils (Entisol), loamy silt or loamy sand, from fine or weakly consolidated coarse marine deposits.
The area is made up of the municipalities of Castelnuovo Calcea, part of Agliano, Mombercelli, part of Nizza M.to, Castelnuovo Belbo and part of Mombaruzzo. The soil consists of moderately permeable sands and marls.
Slightly evolved soils (Entisol), loamy silt, loamy silty clay or clayey silt, from weakly consolidated fine marine deposits.
The area is made up of the municipalities of Agliano, Moasca, San Marzano Oliveto, Castelrocchero part of Castel Boglione and part of Nizza M.to. The soils consist of silt and marl with a fairly small amount of permeable clay.
Loamy sandy or loamy silty sands from consolidated coarse marine deposits.
The area is made up of the municipalities of Calamandrana, Castel Boglione and Rocchetta Palafea. Here we find quite highly permeable marl and sandstone.
Evolved soils (Alfisol), loamy clay or loamy silty clay from non-consolidated fine ancient alluvial deposits.
The soils of Nizza and the characteristics conveyed to the wine
(Soil particles with a diameter of between 0.005 and 2.00 mm)
Sandy soils usually produce wines with less intensity and colour (purplish red), less structure and higher average acidity, lower Ph, lower potential alcohol, and finer, more elegant aromas and fragrances.
They give us fine wines to be drunk while young, wines that are ready earlier.
SANDY - MARLY SOILS
(Marl is made up of equal parts of sedimentary limestone and clay)
These soils usually produce wines of medium body, medium acidity and pH, with low to medium intensity and colour (deeper purplish red) and a higher than average potential alcohol than sandy soils. (Much depends on the percentage of marl).
They potentially give us medium-bodied wines with a quite long cellar life.
SILTY – MARLY SOILS
(Silt particles have a diameter of between 0.002 and 0.005 mm)
These soils usually produce wines with a higher concentration of anthocyanins and polyphenols, with consequently deeper intensity and colour (ruby red), medium-high pH, low acidity and intense aromas of earth (Tuf – this being the word for marl in local dialect).
Elegant, structured and very structured wines with a long cellar life, which require more time to be ready.
SANDY SOILS - SANDSTONE
(Sandstones are of sedimentary origin and consist of grains of sand held together by calcium carbonate)
They have many characteristics that are similar in some ways to those of sandy soils.
They potentially produce wines with average intensity and colour (purplish red), higher acidity, medium pH, fine aromas, lower potential alcohol, less final structure and fewer polyphenols.
All these descriptions of the potential characteristics of the wines, referring to the land of origin, are to be taken as general references, as soil in a hill vineyard has a highly diversified system which can change within the space of a few metres.
There are also vineyards which present a combination of all four of the characteristics mentioned above.