What's in a name? A lot, when it's the name of a vineyard. And when that vineyard is arguably the most historic in Barolo—Cannubi—there's money, history and local pride at stake.
Italy's Council of State has ruled that wines made from four vineyards neighboring Cannubi can be labeled Cannubi. The decision effectively enlarges Cannubi from 37 acres of vines to 84. The ruling has angered 11 producers who own parcels in the 37 acres and have been fighting to maintain the previous boundaries. But it's a victory for one of Barolo's larger and most historic wineries, Marchesi di Barolo.
No one is arguing about the historic value of the name Cannubi. The oldest record of it appearing on a wine label was 1752, before winemakers even began putting Barolo on labels. Located on a southeast-facing ridge just north of the village of Barolo, it captures morning sunshine, and Nebbiolo planted on it ripens even in challenging years. For centuries, Cannubi has been a signifier of quality, which is why wineries often wrote it on their labels even if the fruit came from the other vineyards on the ridge—Muscatel, Valletta, San Lorenzo and Boschis.
In 1995, as the appellation was delineating official vineyard boundaries, the commune of Barolo defined Cannubi as 37 acres on the heart of the ridge. But it also recommended that wines from the four neighbors, which have slightly different exposures and soils, be allowed to include Cannubi—Cannubi-Muscatel, etc. But in 2009, Ernesto Abbona, president of Marchesi di Barolo, challenged this rule, arguing that his winery and others had historically used grapes from the other vineyards in their Cannubi. Marchesi di Barolo had owned a large portion of Cannubi, but in 2008, a split among the owners led the group that held the vineyard to lease it to another winery. When the official vineyard boundaries were finally released in 2010, Cannubi had grown to 84 acres. Read more at Wine Spectator.