At the origins of Barbera, “Pomorosso” - Coppo

Pomorosso: avant-garde interpretation of an ancient and popular grape variety.

In the mid-1980s, Coppo began to believe in the quality potential of Barbera, interpreting it with fresh eyes and contributing in part to the revival of this grape variety. If Pomorosso is the symbol of this revolution, Barbera is the ampelographic icon of our hills from ancient times. But exactly how ancient? We went in search of the roots of this wonderful wine, certain that innovation is based on a long and wise tradition.

“In the county of Nizza de la Paglia, special delegates were sent to taste the wine from these vineyards, and in particular the barbera wine for the service of His Serene Highness, and to pay him the fair price.”

(From a letter dated 1609 discovered in the municipal archive of Nizza Monferrato)

The origins of this grape variety are very ancient, but the first documents attesting to it date back only a few centuries. The first formal trace is found in a cadastral document of the municipality of Chieri, near Turin, in 1514. However, it is not far from the truth the hypothesis that its spread dates back much earlier, perhaps with different names depending on the places, a common occurrence in the past. References to a grape called “de bonus vitibus berbexinis” are frequent in the Codex Astensis, which is said to have been very common in Canelli and its surroundings already in the 13th century and may perhaps be identifiable with the Barbera grape.

As Professor Dalmasso reminds us (one of the most important Italian oenologists of the 20th century), Barbera is then mentioned in a letter from 1609, discovered by Dr. Arturo Bersano in the municipal archive of Nizza Monferrato. It states that in that year, special delegates were sent “to the County of Nizza de la Paglia to taste the wine from these vineyards, and in particular the barbera wine for the service of His Serene Highness, and to pay him the fair price.” This means that the fame of Barbera wine produced in the Asti area had reached the ducal court of Mantua, where there were plenty of opportunities for banquets and for appreciating the finest wines of Italy (Viti e vini della provincia di Alessandria, Desana, 1976).

At the end of the 18th century, in the first treatise on the ampelography of Piedmontese grape varieties, it was described as “a potent wine, always rather severe, but rich in exquisite aroma, and a flavor that combines strength with finesse” (Sulla coltivazione della viti, Nuvolone, 1798). By the end of the 19th century, its historicity and importance for Piedmontese oenology were thus attested to: “a very well-known grape variety and one of the mainstays of the wines of Asti and the lower Monferrato, where it is indigenous and has been cultivated for a very long time” (Ampelography of the province of Alessandria, Carlo Leardi and Pier Paolo Demaria, 1875).

Much has changed in these last centuries, thanks also to labels like our Pomorosso, which have revolutionized the perception and image of Barbera in the domestic and international markets. And the markets themselves, after all, are no longer what they used to be…