Cannubi to remain pure

One of Barolo’s most famous vineyards, Cannubi, will not be enlarged, according to the decision of the Tribunali Amministrativi Regionali (TAR). This decision cancels the previous 2010 decree of the Ministero delle Politiche Agricole Alimentari e Forestali (MIPAAF), the Italian Ministry of Agriculture, which stated that the vineyards on the Cannubi hill – Boschis, San Lorenzo, Muscatel and Valletta – are all entitled to the name of Cannubi without further specification.

In 2010 the Menzioni Geografiche Aggiuntive Ufficiali, an official listing of vineyards crus per commune, came into effect, recognising an extended Cannubi, permitting Cannubi with the suffix Boschis, San Lorenzo, Muscatel or Valletta. By the way, the suffixed status of these indiviudal vineyards has been in existence only since 1994.

Since its inception in 2010, the decree has been a thorn in the side of a group of producers who own land in the actual Cannubi vineyard (pictured below in an illustration for Alessandro Masnaghetti’s superlative map) and who saw the enlargement from 15 ha to more than 34 ha as a historic falsification which ignores the differences in terroir. The motor behind the decree had been Marchesi di Barolo, a substantial operation which produces 1.5 million bottles a year and which has its headquarters in the village of Barolo. Not actually owning any hectares of Cannubi proper, but with holdings in Muscatel, it used to have a long-term contract with a grower in Cannubi who supplied the estate with the grapes for their Cannubi label. For various reasons, the contract was not renewed, which meant that Marchesi di Barolo’s Cannubi would now have to be labelled Cannubi-Muscatel instead of plain Cannubi.

In a recent article written for the online wine journal Intravino, Marta Rinaldi, daughter of Giuseppe Rinaldi, describes how Marchesi di Barolo tried to prevent this by challenging the official cru list at the Comitato Nazionale Vini (full name: Comitato Nazionale per la Tutela e la Valorizzazzione delle Denominazioni di Origine e delle Indicazioni Geografiche Tipiche dei Vini). It defended its case, referring to an ancient practice by which grapes from the entire hill were sold on the market as plain Cannubi without making any distinction between the various vineyards on the hill, and with historic evidence to support this.

The Comitato relayed the claim to the Consorzio of Barolo, which, after lengthy debates, advised the Comitato to allow for the enlargement of the original Cannubi vineyard to encompass all sites. Therefore, it became possible to label a wine Cannubi-Muscatel or plain Cannubi, without referring to the actual site of the vineyard.

The decree immediately triggered a reaction from 11 local growers (there are 19 owners of vines in Cannubi in total) – Mascarello, Serio, Brezza, Camerano, Drocco, Damilano, Einaudi, Fontana, Sandrone, Scarzello and Carretta – who started procedures to try and overturn the MIPAAF decree by appealing to TAR. They successfully argued that the decree in essence is misleading and confusing for the consumer and does not recognise the crucial differences in terroir. Another argument was the fact that the Consorzio of Barolo had taken the interest of a single producer to heart without consulting any of the others involved.

While the decree has now been cancelled, Marchesi di Barolo have already announced they will take the case further, with a possible appeal to the Consiglio di Stato, the Italian State Council.

25 Jun 2012