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"Shameful" Ruling Over Barolo Borders

A vineyard on the slopes of Cannubi, Barolo
© Lanthanum57/Wikimedia | A vineyard on the slopes of Cannubi, Barolo
The expansion of the Cannubi 'cru' could cast "doubt on the credibility of all the vineyard boundaries" in the region.

Producers fighting to prevent the expansion of one of the most important vineyard sites in Barolo have lost their battle.

Rome’s High Administrative Court, the Consiglio di Stato, has overturned a decision that ruled the name Cannubi could only be used for the historic Cannubi area comprising 15 hectares (37 acres).

The latest decision expands the Cannubi name to incorporate the entire 34-hectare (84 acres) hillside, according to Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, which has upset many locals.

"Speaking on behalf of the mayor of Barolo, we are not happy with the Court’s decision,” said Federico Scarzello, who is a town council member and technical advisor on agriculture in Barolo.

Scarzello explained that in the 1990s, the Barolo wine growers' association had asked all towns in the denomination to draw vineyard boundaries – a project lasting nearly twenty years. 

The boundaries in Barolo,"were approved by three separate town administrations, and most importantly, by the Barolo producers themselves," added Scarzello, which set the Cannubi area at 15ha. 

However, at a public meeting held by the National Wine Committee  – the final step before the Cannubi boundaries were due to be rubber stamped in 2010 – Ernesto Abbona of Marchesi di Barolo winery asked for the Cannubi region to be expanded.

To the dismay of many local producers, Abbona's request was granted by the Committee in closed-door proceedings, effectively expanding Cannubi to 34ha.

Local producers appealed this decision, and in 2012, a regional court overturned the Committee's expansion, bringing Cannubi back to its original 15ha.

But Abbona was not finished yet: he appealed and on October 3, 2013 the Rome-based court overturned the regional court's ruling, returning the Cannubi denominazione back to 34 ha.

This week's decision has delighted Abbona. “This sentence justifies my family’s many years of work cultivating and vinifying grapes from our holdings in Cannubi," he told Corriere della Sera.

But many more are enraged.

Maria Teresa Mascarello of Bartolo Mascarello, which has a vineyard within the original Cannubi boundary, claimed that the Italian government had let Barolo producers down. “It is shameful that Italy’s Consiglio di Stato and the Ministry of Agriculture have chosen to satisfy the commercial interests of one winery, Marchesi di Barolo, over the collective interests of all the other producers in the Langhe. This decision puts at risk one of the most prestigious vineyard sites in all of Barolo, one of the most unique wines in the world," she told Wine-Searcher.

Scarzello added: "The latest decision is wrong on many levels. Production codes are supposed to be written and decided by the producers, not officials in Rome. Furthermore, this decision casts doubt on the credibility of all the vineyard boundaries now used in Barolo."

Likewise, Enzo Brezza, of Brezza estate, fought against the expansion and is angry about Rome's interference in the matter. “This sets a dangerous precedent that could set in motion the undoing of two decades of delimiting the vineyards in Barolo," he said. 

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  • Comments

    Duilio Cortassa wrote:
    16-Oct-2013 at 21:58:21 (GMT)

    Cannubi's boundaries did not move an inch I am a little surprised by Kerin O'Keefe's article published Friday, 11 October 2013, expressing concern over the Cannubi vineyard in Barolo; that is why I feel compelled to provide Wine-Searcher's readers with a full and comprehensive picture of the plot, following High Administrative Court's decision No. 4883, published 3 October 2013. It is true, that (some) producers were in fact fighting; it is not true, that they were fighting to prevent the expansion of one of the Cannubi vineyard in Barolo. It is true, once more, that their battle was lost: maybe this was the right battle, maybe it was wrong. Most important is, the Consiglio di Stato did not overturn a decision ruling the name Cannubi could only be used for the historic Cannubi area comprising 15 hectares (37 acres), simply because such a decision never was taken. In fact, Rome's Administrative Court's decision No. 5033, published 4 June 2012, upholding a claim filed by some producers of the hillside, ruled that producers in the Cannubi hillside (34 hectares, or 84 acres) should from now on designate their Barolo wines Cannubi by the geographical names either Cannubi Boschis, or Cannubi Muscatel, or Cannubi San Lorenzo, or Cannubi Valletta or simply Cannubi, this last case applying to producers of the central area of the Cannubi vineyard, thus contradicting a long tradition dating back to beginning of the use of the indication Cannubi, when all producers in the Cannubi hillside would designate their Barolo wines as Cannubi. The Consiglio di Stato's latest decision could not expand the Cannubi name to incorporate the entire 34-hectare (84 acres) hillside, in view of the fact that the Cannubi hillside never changed; 34 hectares were in 1904, when the oldest existing bottle of Barolo Cannubi was bottled by the estate Cav. Felice Abbona and Figli, and 34 hectares are now. Only, a number of different names were used, as it often happens in the countryside, to designate each single property, or estate, not necessarily a vineyard. Thus, the San Lorenzo in Cannubi church's property used to be designated as Beneficio Parrocchiale (an estate belonging to the parish) first, then San Lorenzo, the small house of the Ferrero family was named Ciabot Ferrero (Ferrero's hut), a vineyard were most probably Moscato grapes were anciently grown was named Muscatel, the valley separating the hillside always was named Valletta dei Cannubi, the Boschis family's estate was named Boschis, another area Monghisolfo. All of the above names are somehow recalled by the old people living in the area, although none of them are precisely indicated in the maps.

  • Solomon Mengeu wrote:
    12-Oct-2013 at 08:34:37 (GMT)

    After watching James Suckling's in-depth video about the history and provenance of Cannubi vineyard it is wrong & unfair to all the wine makers, oenologists and vineyard owners to have this taken away from them. A fairer thing to do would be to keep the Cannubi designation for the original 15 hectares and then have Cannubi- what have you for the other 19 odd hectares. I hope the locals can find a way to overturn this and set things right again. Cheers! Solomon Mengeu

  • Diego Meraviglia wrote:
    12-Oct-2013 at 02:26:06 (GMT)

    I won't touch a single bottle of Marches Di Barolo never again, nor will I ever again promote anything with the winery or the vineyard in my classes...they can drink it all themselves and send it to China. We are sick and tired of the usual "PORCATE ALL'ITALIANA".

  • daniel park wrote:
    11-Oct-2013 at 18:15:20 (GMT)

    Well I won't be buying Marchesi de Barolo Cannubi any more.

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