A sparkling start
The importance of the Consortium for the Defence of the Wines of the Asti and Monferrato Districts in the Piedmont, Italian and foreign contexts is proportionate to that of the area which represents one of the 11 DOC wines produced within it.
Its activity involves a production area with an age-old tradition, famous for its excellence, and it currently has 126 member wineries representing all the components of the production line: “Aziende Agricole” and “Aziende Vitivinicole” (which mainly make wines from their estate-grown grapes), “Aziende Vinicole” (which mainly make wines from the grapes they buy), cooperative wineries and bottling companies.
The 11 DOC wines protected by the Consortium are the historic Barbera d’Asti and Barbera del Monferrato (the first to have been awarded the DOC in 1970), Freisa d’Asti, Dolcetto d’Asti, Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato, Albugnano, Cortese dell’Alto Monferrato, Malvasia di Castelnuovo Don Bosco, Loazzolo, Monferrato and Piemonte.
For each of the 11 DOC wines, the Consortium represents over 40% of the area cultivated with vines and over 60% of wine production.
The conquest of the doc
1964 was a great year and it also marked an about-turn for Barbera, which, instead of being used as a table wine, was bottled as a single-grape wine, with immense success. The winemakers worked hard to improve the organoleptic characteristics.
In 1963, after lengthy debate and with the fundamental contribution of the president of the Consortium, Vittorio Badini Gonfalonieri, the DOC law was finally approved, encouraging many other companies to join the Consortium.
It was during this golden age that the first edition of the Douja d’Or was held (1967). This event, organised by Asti Chamber of Commerce, was to become one of the most famous national oenology contests, attracting, along with the Palio and the Festival delle Sagre, considerable numbers of tourists in the years that followed.
In 1970, an excellent vintage, both Barbera d’Asti and Monferrato d’Asti were awarded the DOC.
Quality and publicity
As of 1976, under the guide of the Director, Renato Ratti, and with the collaboration of Prof. Luciano Usseglio Tommaset, Head of the Experimental Oenology Institute, the Consortium worked hard to improve the quality of wine and promote it on foreign markets too.
These were the years of the wine wars between France and Italy, the Italian-French Convention on the community trade of wines organised by Asti Chamber of Commerce and the twinning of the towns of Asti and Valence.
The presidency of the Consortium was occupied in succession by Fiorenzo Giocosa, Paolo Ricagno, Romolo Dezzani and Michele Chiarlo.
In 1980 the regional administration approved the winegrowing register law and that for the promotion of high quality wine, encouraging the birth of the Enoteche regionali (Regional wine stores), including that of Vignale in the Monferrato district.
In autumn 1983, the national press carried a publicity campaign in favour of the two types of Barbera: “historic and “vivace” (slightly sparkling). The roads of Piedmont’s wine lands were emblazoned with the words “Il Barbera è qui” (Barbera is here).
Work on quality and the debate between producers led to the alteration of the disciplinary regulations and the launch of new products.
La defence of authenticity
1986 was the year of the methanol scandal, which caused tremendous damage to the image of Piedmont wines, including those made in accordance with all the rules and regulations by thousands of honest winemakers.
All the associates, with the president Paolo Ricagno, did their utmost to regain credibility and market.
The defence consortiums, together with the Asprovit and Viticoltori Piemonte Associations and with funding from the Region, promoted the campaign entitled “Rosa dei Barbera” (the four rose petals indicate Barbera d’Asti, Barbera del Monferrato, Barbera d’Alba and Barbera dei Colli), supporting it with tastings, meetings and commercial promotions.
The operation, carried out during the great year of 1988, was successful. The commitment to quality was more alive than ever before.
The use of the barrique and selection of the vineyards marked a turning point: the Renaissance of Barbera had begun.
In 1989 the Consortium promoted the first auction of Barbera “Vitigni Storici” (historic grape varieties), relaunching this great wine in the Costigliole d’Asti Castle.
In the mid-nineties, following the gradual attribution of the DOC to many other wines made in the area covered by the Consortium, it was given the name it bears today.
The first consortium mark
The first Consortium mark was made up of a round stamp with a blue bunch of grapes centred against a white background, above the towers of the town of Asti, flanked by the words “Aste nitet mundo”, with the town’s shield below. The words “Consorzio del Vino Tipico” were positioned at the top, flanked by the name of the wine: BARBERA D’ASTI or FREISA D’ASTI.
The founding members
Vittorio Giarda for Casa Vinicola San Secondo in Asti, Luigi Mussa for Figlio di Marengo Antonio in Alba, Oreste Garavello in Asti, Francesco Visconti for Luigi Visconti dei fratelli Visconti, Francesco Nosenzo Pini for Luigi Bosca in Canelli, Luigi Coppo for Piero Coppo in Canelli.
The original annual contribution
A thousand lira registration fee and five lira annual contribution for each hectolitre of typical wine sold.
The first members
Bersano from Nizza Monferrato, Fontanafredda from Alba, Contratto from Canelli, Lorenzo Bologna from Rocchetta Tanaro, Alfredo Soria from Canelli, Adriano Gerbi e Figli from Asti, Scarpa from Nizza Monferrato.
The first Board of Directors
Lamberto Vallarino Gancia, Mario Contratto, Ciano Bonari, Giuseppe Benzi, Enrico Perotti, Antonio Sburlati, Gino Coppo and Arturo Bersano. Director: Ercole Garrone.