Old Barbera Vines Nurture the Future of Nizza DOCG

Old Barbera Vines Nurture the Future of Nizza DOCG

As the ten-year mark since the establishment of the new specific designation of origin for Nizza approaches – acknowledged starting from the 2014 harvest – Michele Chiarlo presents the latest vintage of Nizza DOCG Montemareto 2021, unveiling a fresh perspective on sustainability for the Barbera grape: studying old vines, analyzing their genotypes and selecting those best adapted to climate change. 

The Barbera grape, a cornerstone of winemaking in Piedmont, boasts a rich history intertwined with the region’s winemaking traditions. It has shown remarkable resilience to climate variations, particularly among its older vines. Yet, its narrative extends beyond tradition to embrace innovation. As an advocate for the Nizza denomination and a champion of Barbera’s reputation, Michele Chiarlo actively participates in the AGEBA project. Led by the Consorzio Barbera d’Asti e Vini del Monferrato, this initiative focuses on identifying and studying vines with robust genetic resilience, which offer promising prospects for the future of viticulture. 

We talked about this with winemaker Stefano Chiarlo:

“The AGEBA project is a fascinating study that delves into old vines with the most resilient genetic heritage. While examining vineyards, we select samples deemed healthy, free from viruses or Flavescence dorée, and proven to withstand 80-90 years of various climatic conditions, from hot and cold to dry seasons, or even capable of producing lower alcohol content. By analyzing the genetic makeup of each old vine, the project aims to pinpoint the specimens most resilient to climate change or new diseases, providing material that can be shared with nurseries for future replanting. We began with Barbera because it’s an area that has been widely affected by climate change and prone to issues like Flavescence dorée. However, it would also be interesting to expand this research to Nebbiolo in the future, as it’s always intriguing to delve into the history of old vines. Additionally, this study has unearthed several other intriguing discoveries, such as the rediscovery of abandoned rootstocks from wetter and colder decades, which didn’t perform well back then but could be useful now.” 


Renowned for its ability to produce wines of extraordinary quality, the hill of Montemareto sits in the municipality of Castelnuovo Calcea, in the province of Asti, not far from the vineyards of La Court, towards Mombercelli. It’s a majestic ridge that rises over 300 meters in altitude, steeply sloped, with an excellent southeast to southwest exposure that ensures sunlight from morning till evening. The Barbera vines grow in soils composed of Sant’Agata Fossili calcareous marls alternating with layers of light-colored Asti sands, rich in microelements, particularly magnesium and calcium 

Montemareto is a vineyard with unique characteristics. The Nizza DOCG produced from this cru boasts a significant structure, maintains remarkable freshness and stands out for its notes of violet, small red and black fruits, as well as a light, sweet spiciness. Extremely low yields and significant thinning allow for the harvest of only five to six bunches per plant. This approach aims to emphasize the wine’s rich structure, which is supported by a robust acidity that is typical of the Barbera grape 

A delicate traditional aging involves one year in large oak barrels to maintain the true essence of the original grape variety. The resulting wine unveils notes of dark fruits and rich aromas that hint at substantial longevity