Barolo Cannubi: growers lose legal battle for authentic labeling

mascarello barolo cannubi

Above: A drawing of “La collina dei Cannubi” (“Cannubi Hill”) by Eugenio Comenicini, 1981 (reproduced from Martinelli’s monograph Il Barolo come lo sento io, 1993). Ruling in the favor of one of the appellation’s largest wineries, the Italian government has overturned a sentence that prohibited misleading labeling of wines produced from grapes grown in adjacent vineyards.

According to a post published today by Luciano Ferraro, wine editor for the Italian national daily Corriere della Sera, eleven Piedmontese grape growers have lost their battle to maintain authenticity in the labeling of wines produced in Barolo.

Since 2009, the behemoth Marchesi di Barolo winery has lobbied and petitioned Italian regional administration officials to allow for an expansion in the labeling of wines made from grapes grown in vineyards adjacent to the famous Cannubi vineyard, one of Italy’s most prestigious growing sites.

In June 2012, Italy’s Regional Administrative Court (TAR) ruled against Marchesi di Barolo and in favor of the eleven producers who had contested the expansion.

Marchesi di Barolo owner Ernesto Abbona subsequently appealed the sentence to the Italian agriculture ministry.

According to Ferraro’s post today, based on a statement released by Abbona, the Italian Council of State has overturned the ruling.

(Read Walter Speller’s reporting of the events that led up to the decision [on Jancis Robinson's blog, August 2012] and read my post from November 2012 here.)

In the wake of the Italian government’s decision, grapes grown in the vineyards known as Cannubi-Boschis, Cannubi-San Lorenzo, Cannubi-Muscatel, and Cannubi-Valletta can now be used in wines labeled simply “Cannubi.”

“This sentence delivers justice to the lavish efforts of my family,” said Abbona in his statement. “Since the end of the nineteenth century, we have grown and vinified Barolo grapes that were produced by estate-owned vineyards in Cannubi and my family has been the artist behind the promotion of this extraordinary hill” (translation mine).

In 2010, as Abbona was mounting his efforts to expand labeling and to include the adjacent vineyards, David Berry Green (scion of historic British wine merchants Berry Brothers & Rudd) wrote the following on his blog:

“Ernesto Abbona, President of heavyweight Barolo producer Marchesi di Barolo (1.6million bts), is cast in the Machiavellian role making a final desperate grab for vineyard rights. Pitted against him are a band of small growers – let’s call them partisans! – defending the honour of an historical site, Cannubi, row by row, bunch by bunch.”

The eleven growers who had tried to block Abbona’s expansion efforts were the following: B. Mascarello, Serio, Brezza, Camerano, Drocco, Damilano, Einaudi, Fontana, Sandrone, Scarzello, and Carretta.

5 thoughts on “Barolo Cannubi: growers lose legal battle for authentic labeling

  1. Note to self… do not buy Marchesi di Barolo wines labelled “Cannubi”. Mr. Abbona misses a point I think and that is that if his wines from these neighboring sites were really really special, people would gravitate to them without the need for “simply” Cannubi on the label. He could’ve made Cannubi-SL or Cannubi-B something special and meaningful on their own. To label them simply as Cannubi to me is an attempt to deceive, or attach to something ‘better’ or greater because his wines can’t do it on their own.

    Cannubi barolos tend to be my favorite. I can pick them out of a blind tasting with regularity… I want that word to mean something consistent, reliable and focused. I will just stick with Einaudi, Mascarello et al.

    In Italian politics, you always have to wonder how much money helped grease this appeal decision.

  2. Well, the problem is not only Cannubi. A number of other sites were also largely extended from their original size. Look at Bussia which is currently over 50 ha. Rather than blaming Mr Abbona I would rather direct the sting of criticism to the Barolo (and Barbaresco) authorities which vehicled this dilution of historical cru names while passing the new “Menzioni Geografiche Aggiuntive” classification.

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