Colonization of Cannubi Continues in Barolo

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).

When Giovanni and I visited the home of Maria Teresa Mascarello and David Berry Green on Saturday for lunch, conversation was dominated by two topics: the primary elections for Italy’s center-left Democratic Party (held on Sunday) and the Marchesi di Barolo’s continued efforts to redefine which vineyards in Barolo can be called “Cannubi.”

For some time now, Marchesi di Barolo has been trying expand the designation, to include adjacent vineyards. Its application to extend the historic vineyard’s reach was thwarted when a group of eleven producers and owners of rows Cannubi successfully petitioned to block the move in June of this year. (Walter Speller delivered this excellent post on the events that lead up to the showdown.)

As Marta Rinaldi — daughter of Giuseppe Rinaldi, one of the eleven wineries who contested the redesgination — reported in this moving post on Intravino, it took a court order to stop the Marchesi di Barolo, whose motive to remap appellation subzones is rooted in desire to exploit the most recognizable crus of Barolo for financial gain.

Cannubi is considered by many to be one of Barolo’s greatest vineyards and one of its most historically significant growing sites. This fact, coupled with foreigners’ ease in pronouncing the toponym (kahn-NOO-bee), have made it one of the most popular (and lucrative) vineyard designations in the appellation.

ferdinando principiano

Above: Giovanni and I drove from Brescia to Barolo on Saturday morning.

In October of this year, the Marchesi di Barolo filed an appeal with the court to lift the injunction against them. And its outcome is uncertain.

“On the ground” in Barolo, there is even greater concern regarding the vineyard’s future because the Ceretto and Damilano wineries recently partnered with James Suckling to make a documentary about Cannubi (it was shot during harvest this year). And the movie is to be incorporated, Maria Teresa told me, in a marketing campaign to promote the sale of wines labeled “Cannubi” in the ever growing Asian market, where the thirst for high-end wines seems to know no bounds.

As an owner in Cannubi and one of its most well known producers, Maria Teresa was approached by marketers to participate in the program.

“A campaign like this shouldn’t move forward until the question has been resolved,” she told me. “I’m not going to partner with my quote-unquote enemy… the Marchesi di Barolo in a promotion like this,” noting that the Marchesi di Barolo is planning to be part of the campaign.

Above: Will the color of traditional Barolo be sullied by the green of avarice?

It’s not clear when the court will rule on the Marchesi di Barolo’s appeal and the stakes are extremely high.

As David wrote on his blog last year, “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.”

I’ll be following along closely and will report news as it arrives from Langa. In the meantime, a Google image search for “Cannubi” will deliver a number of photos and maps of this historic vineyard if you’re interested in learning more.

I’ve got so much to tell about my recent trip to Italy, including more on my lunch with Maria Teresa and David. But this was most urgent. Stay tuned…

8 thoughts on “Colonization of Cannubi Continues in Barolo

  1. I’m not convinced this is a Machiavellian conspiracy by the Abbona family. Would the Biondi-Santi family be subject to similar harsh criticisms if there were in-kind situation in Montalcino? I am merely saying this is an historical property and I don’t believe it is all about greed or short term profit or the degradation of the Cannubi name. Likewise those folks producing wine in Muscatel, Valletta, San Lorenzo and Boschis/Monghisolfo, what does that say about their wines? Are they inferior, with or without the Cannubi name attached to them? Maybe harder to market, but we’re on the head of a pin counting the dancing elephants with this exercise, in any case. Very tightly wrapped Italian wine geekiness – the kind of stuff folks say this is why Italian wines are so complicated. But we muddle on through the fog.

    • Ciao Alfonso,
      in Italia il problema vero è che i consorzi di tutela sono amministrati secondo un sistema non propriamente democratico: le aziende più grandi -quelle che producono di più- hanno maggior peso nelle votazioni in merito alle regole che devono stabilire per tutta la denominazione.
      A volte alcune di queste regole tendono a favorire palesemente le stesse aziende che le fanno e non la collettività dei produttori dell’intera zona. Questa prepotenza la si vede sempre dai grandi verso i piccoli e mai al contrario.
      E poi il conflitto d’interessi le cui radici affondano nell’economia che l’oggetto conteso può generare. In questo caso l’oggetto si chiama Cannubi e diventa uno strumento utile per giustificare il prezzo maggiore di un barolo targato “Cannubi” rispetto ad altri, perché percepito come più importante e più prezioso, anche se altri possono essere più buoni ma meno costosi.

  2. Adrian, thanks for reading, and Maurizio, thanks for the kind words. Did you do TG with Rachel and Doug?

    Alfonso, thanks for sharing your insights here.

    Ferraris, truffles, and soccer teams are the stuff that dreams are made of… The ethos of the the Barolo that I love is as much ideologically aware as it is informed by aroma and flavor.

  3. Egads, just what we need: The Asians driving the price of Barolo even higher. And one of Barolo’s largest producers gerrymandering a historic cru. Not a pretty picture.

    Keep us posted of developments in this story, please!

  4. Pingback: Barolo, dietrofront dei giudici sulla collina della discordia | DiVini

  5. Pingback: Barolo Cannubi: growers lose legal battle for authentic labeling | Do Bianchi

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