Will We See the 74th DOCG Soon?

By Jack Brostrom
January 23, 2014
Posted January 23, 2014

[Note: Nizza DOCG was approved as of December 2014, making it the 74th DOCG; others have been added since.—ed.]

Proposed Nizza DOCG Moves Forward

After two years of utter calm, there may be some stirrings of activity in the list of denominations in Italy. If the wine growers in the area around Nizza Monferrato in Piemonte have their way, it won’t be too much longer before Italy adds a new DOCG to the 73 that have been in that club since 2011. On December 22, 2013, the local association, the Consorzio Tutela Vini d’Asti e del Monferrato, agreed on the rules for a new denomination, which would essentially elevate the Nizza subzone of the Barbera d’Asti DOCG to be a DOCG in its own right.

While Nizza may be a new name to a lot of people, it has earned its status as a top-flight wine region. Nizza has been recognized as a subzone of the Barbera d’Asti denomination since the 2000 vintage. Not long thereafter, the push for a separate identity began—well before Barbera d’Asti became a DOCG in 2008. The drafting of a disciplinare (governing regulation) and its acceptance by the consorzio mark perhaps the most significant milestone for the new Nizza DOCG, but the denomination will not become official until it gets the endorsement of the regional, national, and European governmental committees. The consorzio was expecting approval in Turin by the end of January 2014. Neither Rome nor Brussels is likely to veto the proposal, but they may not rush to a decision either, making the actual date of acceptance difficult to predict.

The following table shows the changes that are proposed for Nizza DOCG wines, as compared with Barbera d’Asti Superiore from the Nizza subzone.

Nizza table update jpg

Interestingly, the new disciplinare amends the section on closures to ban only crown caps, meaning that screw caps are allowed. Winemaker Stefano Chiarlo, quoted in a consorzio press release, notes that bottles sealed with screw caps can boost sales in by-the-glass programs and in some markets such as Asia where consumers are not as familiar with corkscrews.

The Nizza DOCG would be stacked on top of existing denominations, rather than seceding from them. The idea is that Nizza wines will be produced only in good years when fruit quality is at its optimum—thus the requirement for longer aging. In less than optimum years, Barbera growers in the Nizza zone would still have the option of making wine under the Barbera d’Asti DOCG label—not to mention Barbera del Monferrato Superiore DOCG and the Barbera del Monferrato, Monferrato, and Piemonte DOCs.

Nizza subzoneAt present, the Nizza subzone includes 89 hectares (220 acres) of vineyards and has 44 producers. The bottled output averages about 1,425 hectoliters (15,850 cases), which the producers have said they hope to increase to a million bottles (83,300 cases) annually by 2015—a figure that might be possible if all the growers in Nizza were able to make DOCG-quality wine from every drop of every grape, but which even the consorzio agrees is una grande sfida (a big challenge). There is enough vineyard land in the Nizza area to double the current output, but of course that will not happen within just two harvests if quality is to be maintained at the desired level. Suffice it to say that the availability of Nizza wine will increase in future years.

If you’re wondering whether the other two subzones of Barbera d’Asti will follow in Nizza’s footsteps, the answer is probably not. As enologist Chiarlo points out, the Tinella and Colli Astiano subzones exist more on paper than in reality. Their combined annual production from 4 hectares (10 acres) is just 240 cases.

*18 communes of the Nizza area: Agliano Terme, Belveglio, Bruno, Calamandrana, Castel Boglione, Castelnuovo Belbo, Castelnuovo Calcea, Castel Rocchero, Cortiglione, Incisa Scapaccino, Moasca, Mombaruzzo, Mombercelli, Nizza Monferrato, Rocchetta Palafea, San Marzano Oliveto, Vaglio Serra, and Vinchio

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5 comments on “Will We See the 74th DOCG Soon?”

  1. Curious about this post. I was under the impression that "traditional terms" (like DOCG) are by definition traditional, and that the number of DOCGs would remain locked at 73 as there is no comparable tier in the new EU-wide PDO/PGI system.

    Is Nizza able to circumvent this as it is already a geographic designation of an existing DOCG, and do you think we will now see additional DOCGs in the future?

  2. I was under the same impression you were—that DOC and DOCG would be phased out in favor of DOP in Italy and that any new denominations could be DOPs only. I posed the question of when they would be phased out to Federdoc, the national federation of consorzi in Italy, and was surprised to learn that the Italians have no intention of giving up on DOCs and DOCGs (or IGTs, for that matter). While those “traditional terms” may have no legal standing outside Italy, the Italian government is allowed to continue to bestow and maintain them, according to Federdoc’s executive director.

    The consorzio in Asti-Monferrato is certainly referring to the application for Nizza as a new DOCG and not as being for DOP status. Nizza does appear to be circumventing the DOC stage prior to DOCG status because it is springing forth from an existing DOCG, but there was never any question that it is DOCG and not DOP status they are after.

    Based on all that, if Nizza is approved, I think we can count on further DOCG applications in the future. However, the EU has threatened to crack down by disallowing any DOPs that are not actively used for production within a certain time frame. So, if logic prevails, any new denominations we might see should be closer to the Nizza creation, coming from either a well-known or well-used denomination.

  3. The European Union's DOP/PDO/AOP regulations have not eliminated "traditional terms" and I have never heard from an official source that new DOC or DOCG, or for that matter AOC, DO, DOCa, etc, would not be approved. In January 2011, Lamberto Vallarino Gancia, who at the time was President of FEDERVINI, co-presented with William T. Earl, former Assistant Director of the TTB, a session at Vino 2011 explaining the new EU regulations - . Gancia was part of a committee for the EU/EEC that drafted the new regulations, so he was a pretty legit source. My understanding from all that I have read and all conversations I have had since is that DOC & DOCG are both equal to the DOP tier within EU regulations. When Decanter & others wrote that DOCG had been eliminated (oops, got that wrong), others stated that AOC had been eliminated in France. Nizza is now the first DOCG since the EU changes and France has approved many AOCs in this time. They may both put AOP or DOP on the labels but their "traditional terms" are alive and well.

  4. In December 2014, the Ministry of Agriculture granted producers in the Asti area permission to label wines as Nizza DOCG beginning with the 2014 harvest. (At this point, of course, nothing from that vintage has been bottled yet, and the first Nizza DOCGs cannot be released until July 2016.) This permission is one step short of final approval, which must come from EU authorities in Brussels, but there is no reason to think they will overrule the denomination. For all practical purposes, there are now 74 DOCGs.

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