The Cannubi Affair, posted by John Szabo, MS

The Cannubi Affair

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

Fans of Barolo are likely aware of the recent media flurry and controversy surrounding the labeling of one of Barolo’s most historic crus, “Cannubi”. I asked Anna Abbona, proprietor of Marchesi di Barolo, for some clarification regarding the recent decision of the State Council to overturn an earlier decision by the Administrative Court of Rome to restrict the use of the name Cannubi to 15 hectares, rather than the original 34ha that the cru had officially encompassed up until 2010. Marchesi di Barolo, has produced a “Barolo Cannubi” since 1904. Here is the release she sent me:

As you know, our family grows and vinifies Nebbiolo grapes grown in our estate vineyards in Cannubi since the second half of the 1800’s (The oldest existing bottle of Barolo “Cannubi”, dated 1904, is labelled Cav. Felice Abbona & Figli).

In reading some online coverage of this issue (blogs and on-line posts) we have come across “reporting” that is not factually correct and therefore we would like to outline the issues at hand:

—  As you read this, please note that only the Consorzio di Tutela Barolo Barbaresco Alba Langhe e Roero and the Ministry of Agriculture have the jurisdiction to make any official decisions regarding wine production regulations.

—  In 1995, as the Consorzio di Tutela was carrying out an investigation on the actual names of places and on their history, it asked all the producers to supply useful documents on the matter which they received.

—  The suggestion of the Commune of Barolo, following suggestions from a few local wine-growers (the same ones who will challenge the act of the Ministry of  Agriculture later on), was to add additional names of only certain parcels (Boschis, Muscatel, Valletta, San Lorenzo) via hyphenation, to the Cannubi vineyard-name.

—  This suggestion was brought to vote at a meeting of the members of the Consorzio di Tutela and the outcome of the vote was to continue to label wines, made from grapes grown on the 34ha (84 acres) Cannubi hillside, “Barolo Cannubi”, while giving the option to wine-growers from the above mentioned parcels (Boschis, Muscatel, Valletta and San Lorenzo) to hyphenate the parcel name, or simply keep “Barolo Cannubi” only. The Consorzio di Tutela’s decision became the Act of the Ministry of Agriculture of September 30th 2010 which amended “Barolo”’s product specification. Under this Act, both labels are correct: “Barolo Cannubi” OR “Barolo Cannubi— Boschis”, “Barolo Cannubi” OR “Barolo Cannubi – Muscatel”, etc.

—  A group of growers challenged the Act in front of the Administrative Court of Rome (T.A.R. Lazio), which- quite surprisingly- upheld their claim and overturned the Ministry’s Act of September 30th 2010.

—  The Ministry of Agriculture (not a single wine  grower) obviously appealed in front of the State Council and, on October 3rd 2013, the State Council ruled to uphold the Act of September 30th 2010.

Cannubi hillside

Cannubi hillside

As a result, Barolo wines from the 34-ha (84 acres) that make up the Cannubi hillside continue to be labeled “Barolo Cannubi”, although they are not banned from including the name of the parcel site as outlined above. This ruling of the State Council is final and confirms that the Cannubi zone remains the original 34ha. as it has always been.

These are the facts. Recent online posts and blogs have stated that this last appeal was initiated by Marchesi di Barolo, which is untrue. Although we agree with the outcome, as it affirms the family history in producing wine from this historic vineyard site, the decision to appeal was made by the Ministry of Agriculture. As wine-growers of this hillside since the second half of the 1800s,and like the other  winegrowers: the  families Comm G.B. Burlotto and  Francesco Rinaldi  we were asked by the Ministry of Agriculture to provide documentation supporting that “Cannubi” had been use to label wine made from grapes grown across the 34-ha (84acres).These historic wineries have been operating in the area for more than a century and have always labelled their own Barolo made from grapes from several parts of the whole hill with the only wording ‘CANNUBI’.

Most shockingly, it is being reported that after this final ruling, the Cannubi site has been “expanded” [see this article on wine-searcher for an example – JSz]. As you can see from this account of the facts, the site was never reduced – only the ability to add a parcel mention was added. So this claim is also untrue.

Barolo Cannubi 1904, 1973, 2008

Barolo Cannubi 1904, 1973, 2008

We have always maintained a sincere behavior about this matter over the years, keeping a humble profile and respecting the institutions responsible for deliberating on this issue and we look forward to producing wine of the same quality and with the same passion, as we have been producing since the second half of the 1800s.

I am attaching for your records a picture of the some historical Cannubi bottles.

Thank you once again for your kind attention and interest for this matter.

Anna Abbona
Marchesi di Barolo

For some additional background, see this article on Decanter.

Photos courtesy of Marchesi di Barolo