Vietti and the reification of Nebbiolo: “A dark day for Barolo.”

nebbiolo harvest 2015Above: Nebbiolo grapes in Cannubi, one of Barolo’s most famous crus.

“Here in the hills, people can’t stop talking about it,” wrote high-profile Italian wine blogger and Nebbiolo observer Alessandro Morichetti in a Facebook post today.

He was referring to Monday’s news that legacy Barolo estate Vietti had been sold to American entrepreneur Kyle Krause, owner of the “Kum and Go” convenience store chain.

It’s rumored that the cost was $60 million, an astounding figure for an appellation where many still remember the dire economic challenge faced by growers in the decades that followed the Second World War. As late as the 1960s, even as Italy’s post-war “economic miracle” began to take shape, many villages in Barolo and Barbaresco still didn’t have running water, for example.

In an excellent post today for the popular Italian wine blog Intravino, contributor and Langa native Francesco Oddenino remembers a remark by “last of the Mohicans” Barolo grower and winemaker Bartolo Mascarello.

Commenting the sale of a parcel in the famed Cannubi vineyard for an astronomical and at that time unimaginable sum, Mascarello reportedly said: “From this day forward, no young person in Barolo will have the means to acquire a piece of land in Barolo and begin to make wine. This is a dark day for Barolo.”

Yes, over the last decade or so, vineyard rows and even entire vineyard sites have changed hands for what some consider obscene amounts of money in Barolo and Barbaresco. But “until now,” writes Oddenino, “no other leading historic estate has ever been sold: The prices of land have reached levels never before seen but the best vineyards have always been purchased by historic wineries owned by Piedmontese producers.”

“This is perhaps another dark day for Barolo and the Langhe [hills],” he opines.

Krause has been trying to buy a historic estate in Langhe for some time now.

More than a year ago, I wrote this piece for WineSearcher about Roberto Conterno’s move to snatch up a historic Barolo farm that Krause desperately wanted to acquire.

He used “pre-emption rights,” otherwise known as “first right of refusal,” to block the American.

Tracie P and I will be heading to Barolo tomorrow for the Collisioni music and wine festival. I’m sure that there will be much talk of the sale and what it means for the future of the appellation.

I’ll report back all the news that’s fit to blog about.

And in meantime, I’ll try to figure out how to explain to Italians what “Kum and Go” means and its cultural (and pop-cultural) implications.

2 thoughts on “Vietti and the reification of Nebbiolo: “A dark day for Barolo.”

  1. Oh, that’s rich. Shook my head when I saw that Vietti story … just like when Kum & Go started popping up all over town, and the name “Kum & Go” is just so unappealing that I don’t even go there (although they are brightly lit at night, which is a safety plus). Ironically, I frequent something called “Loaf & Jug” for fuel points – so – what’s in a name in ‘ murica, I guess? Yes, will be interested to see what gli italiani pensono di ‘kum e andare’ – I mean, how do you even explain that to them? Looking forward to this one, Jeremy. Have a blast!

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