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.