Establishing a cooperative winery is like founding a town. It is an important, almost heroic act, that will change the life of people involved and the place in which it is founded. It represents a different new way of working – working together in order to be protected, giving the work a wider significance and therefore increasing the value of the result of so much hard work: the wine. No more “my wine”, but “our wine”, the wine of a whole land.. In October 1955 in Nizza Monferrato, someone realised that gathering together all the farmers who had worked their vineyards for so long alone, might lead to something completely new. It meant improving the conditions of an often uncertain and usually hard occupation, while promoting even more the “wine from Nizza”. The Cantina sociale di Nizza Monferrato owes its foundation also to the pride and the local patriotism of its town and its people, who always lived for and believed in wine.
The founding members represented their land very well, including six farmers, a general, two lawyers, two accountants and one senior citizen. And the co-operative was so successful that the members numbered two hundred within a couple of years. Once established, the winery’s next step was to become a leading supply of some for the best of Italy’s wines, both to the home market and abroad. By the Seventies, the winery was one of the best-established in Piedmont and it began to modernise its equipment and update its wine-making techniques. From then onwards the winery kept on improving the quality of its production and of its vineyards, but especially kept up with the new needs of its market and the new drinking culture which was changing the face of the old Piedmont.
The Cantina di Nizza has always worked hard to keep its equipment and technology and, of course, its ideas, up to date, and equally importantly, striven to stay in the vanguard of selling and producing wine, while at the same time respecting the tradition of the region. The winery moved from the ancient vats of the Fifties to modern stainless steel tanks to guarantee fermentation under the best possible conditions, from the old hand wine-presses to the new pneumatic presses for a more gentle must extraction, from Dutch canvas sacks to modern cross-flow filtering systems in order to obtain the cleanest wines possible.
Moreover, it moved from a policy of selling to big bottling firms only to a renewed attention to the single consumer, the connoisseur and the “wine tourist”. Now the wine tourist may see the new, modern bulk wine pumps and a hi-tech tasting room, next to the traditional ageing cellar, smelling of the oak barrels which have held half a century-worth of wines. As always, the production of quality wine starts in the vineyards of which there are 550 hectares of vine, treated with the care and respect they deserve.
There are 550 hectares of vineyard worked by the 250 members selling their grapes directly to the Cantina di Nizza on the sunny hills around Nizza Monferrato. Every vintage 50 000 quintals of selected and valuable grapes reached our winery. 61% of the amount it is the best Barbera di Nizza grape.
The rest is Moscato, Cortese, Brachetto, Dolcetto and Pinot Chardonnay. Thanks to these wonderful grape variety the Cantina di Nizza produces 35 000 hectolitres of wine per year. A part of it is sold loose, while a little very selected amount is bottled.
Sooner or later, every firm reaches an understanding of what it’s its aim and role. For the last 50 years, Cantina di Nizza Monferrato’s aim has been carrying over to our present the tradition and the secrets of the ancient way of “wine-making”. This was possible just by unravelling the secrets and techniques of wine-making – sometimes archaic and indefinite, often the result of the talent and the wisdom of those who know how, but not necessarily why – to hand down these methods and improve them with the help of the technology and new enological knowledge.
This is a delicate task which includes protecting the roots of this ancient culture from sources of betrayal, pollution, and trouble, in particular its unique hilly environment. Without forgetting the importance of growing and going towards the future. Slowly and surely, avoiding into fashions or nostalgic “revivals”, the winery has opened to change and to the interests of a new type of tourist eager to know and understand the wine he drinks. In this way, the Cantina di Nizza is both a witness to the past and an interpreter of the future of a part of Piedmontese culture and life.