Wine Wednesday: Nizza D.O.C.G. La Court from Michele Chiarlo

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Today is Wine Wednesday and I am writing about a wine I tasted at a recent seminar on Barbera d’Asti from the Nizza DOCG area specifically. This wine is from Michele Chiarlo. The wines are brought in by Kobrand.

I did a few projects for Kobrand years ago and am quite familiar with their amazing portfolio. I met Michele many years ago and I was excited to try this wine. I remembered that they had an Art project which was fascinating and apparently Tenuta la Court is where the project is located. They bought this new property in 1995, Tenuta La Court although it dates from the 1800s. It is a 20 hectare winery on two hills, quite large for Monferrato.

The label of La Court features Cypress tress which are on the property and date from the mid-nineteenth. Cypresses are some of my favorite trees and I was immediately attracted to the label.

The Nizza D.O.C.G. project was created in 2014, and is considered the best area for the Barbera grape variety. The area of Monferrato is just 18 municipalities. The vineyards, positions with great exposures (form southeast to southwest), have very low yields (less than 70 quintals per hectare) and lie on soils designated “Astian sand”. The period of refinement for the Nizza D.O.C.G is at least 18 months and at least 30 months for the Nizza D.O.C.G Riserva. While the D.O.C.G. designation is fairly recent, work on the designation has been taking place for more than 20 years.

Oddly enough, many years ago, I proposed my services to an important member of this group. Sadly, the export manager told me that I couldn’t understand Italian wine because I was a foreigner despite the fact that I was a member of the Italian Sommelier Association.

Actually it was during the early days of the war in Iraq and he called me a warmonger or “guerrafondaio” because I am an American. The experience left me with a terrible taste in my mouth for years about these wines.

Happily numerous other Italians have felt that I was precisely the person to represent their wines so the sting of that comment has faded but he was quite shortsighted and Nizza was always something that I remembered in a so-so way.

Needless to say, I was thrilled to attend a seminar hosted by an Italian PR firm in New York promoting Nizza this past November. I came away with great respect for the wines, the producers and the area and a desire to taste many more. We tried two vintages, the 2016 and the 2011. I would love to see what they will be like in the future.

This particular one was 100% Barber, had great structure and balance with rich silky tannins, elegant and vibrant acidity, earthy savory notes coupled with sweet spice and black fruit aromas. I thought of it as benchmark Barbera from old vines. I’m sure it will have longevity as well. Not inexpensive for the Riserva 2016, I thought the wine was exquisite and worth it’s $50-$55 SRP for a special occasion such as the ones coming up in the next two weeks. ‘

Chiarlo has been making this wine since 1996. The grapes spend 15 days on the skins in 55hl oak cars and ages for a total of 30 months. About half ages in large barrels and half in casks for a year and then another 18 months in the bottle.

At 14.4% Alcohol, it was a big wine but it’s silky plush mouthfeel made it a pleasure to drink.

Chiarlo said they do a lot of green harvesting because Barbara is such a vigorous variety. In 1989-1990 they made major changes in the Nizza project using better rootstocks, new clones and reducing yields. This led to wines with more concentration and power and to ones that are better balanced. He notes that Barbera is like Sangiovese in that it is eclectic and produces different in various areas. He also noted that in Piedmont, 80% of the people drink Barbera more often than Barolo.

Nizza D.O.C.G. has a lot to offer and I for one look forward to many more opportunities to taste these wines.

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