Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Cannubi Conundrum ~ If 15 was 30

Still life with glass of Lambrusco at Aldo Sohm Wine Bar
Although harvest is in full-swing in Piedmont, the folks who sell the wines have hit the road. This week found me in New York City and Frisco, Texas for a barrage of Barolo events.

St. Patrick's was all shiny clean for Pope Francis' visit
In New York I was invited by Paolo Damilano and Vias Importers to dinner at Le Bernardin PrivĂ©. Chef Eric Ripert ( which another Eric told me is pronounced Ree’-Pear) along with Damilano’s chef, Massimo Camia, treated 70+ folks to an elegant and understated meal showcasing the Damilano Cannubi wines. The highlight of the dinner was the premiere of Damilano’s 2008 Barolo Riserva Cannubi “1752.”

Have $81 million for the 93rd floor of 432 Park? The taxes
will run $15,857 a month and the coop/condo fees $16,595

Later in the week I made the trek to Baja Oklahoma ( as Dallasites like to call the extreme north of the Dallas Tollway), where bedroom communities Plano and Frisco intermingle alongside newly constructed highways. That evening I was the guest of Giovanni Minetti and his son Francesco.We met at Kent Rathbun’s newest restaurant, Hickory, showcasing barbecued, roasted and grilled meats, some local, some not. The Minetti’s were there with their distributor to show the wines from Tenuta Carretta, and we tasted their Cannubi 2010.

I have a fascination for the Cannubi site. Loved by wine critics such as James Suckling, Antonio Galloni, and publications like the Wine Enthusiast, the Wine Spectator and Wine Advocate, it seems others do as well.

The Damilano 2008 Barolo Riserva Cannubi “1752,” so named to mark the first year the word “Cannubi” appeared on a bottle, is an offering by Damilano who owns or has access to more Cannubi grapes (10 hectares) than anyone. 

Damilano’s “1752” from the 2008 vintage, according to Beppe Caviola, was a “normal” vintage from a weather point and a “classic” vintage from a harvest one. I found the wines to have good, mature tannins, really elegant, not overbearing or too dark in color. This is Damilano’s ultimate statement wine from Cannubi, and to see him and Beppe on stage going back and forth was an interesting way to pass an evening. Mind you, this is also high theater, along with great food – the evening was well choreographed and the finale (the “1752”) was simply served at the end, without garnish (dessert or cheese) which I found exceptionally pleasing, To actually sip on a wine and not have to think about food was a good way to end a wine dinner, one I hope other folks will utilize in the future. Just the wine for the finale – great classy way to do it. When the wine arrives later this fall into the US, it will retail for around $250.

The Minetti's asked me to join them at Hickory, and after work I drove up to the restaurant. Inside I found a whole bevy of wines to taste, starting with the whites, a Gavi and several Arneis wines, including a surprising one that had been oak aged. Of course, I thought inside my head, “I’m so sorry, you’re an oak aged white wine,” and then I took a sip. Again, my preconceptions almost got in the way of my ability to enjoy a wine without personal prejudice. I quickly re-calibrated and self-corrected.

Tenuta Carretta’s 2010 Barolo Cannubi was well-balanced- a little smoky, some dark cherry notes. One thing I noticed about the wine was that it was drinking rather well for being so young. The wine wasn’t clumsy or overly alcoholic, even though the 14% alcohol might have steered it in that direction. Again, the wine was well-balanced. Very enjoyable. Around $80 US retail.

At the Damilano/Le Bernardin dinner, Ed McCarthy, a venerable wine expert and writer, stood up and asked Paolo Damilano and Beppe Caviola a question about the controversy that is Cannubi. Damilano and Caviola didn’t address it, nor was it the time or the place for such a discussion. But it does bear some discussion here.

For the life of me I cannot get my hands around Cannubi, from a math perspective. My post of June 24, 2012, To Cannubi or not to Cannubi? (that is the question) is where I started asking myself, what was going on. On that post I noted, “According to an account in Decanter on June 22, 2012, ‘Italian wine producers are claiming victory after a tribunal ruled to return the Cannubi vineyard area in Barolo to its previous size. A tribunal in Rome annulled an earlier decree that had expanded the area to 34ha from 15ha.The decision follows an appeal from 11 out of 19 Cannubi producers, concerned that the prestigious wine name was being diluted.’”

What I have found is this:

• Damilano 2 owned and 8 hectares rented from once partner of Marchesi di Barolo, the Scarzello family
• Fratelli Serio & Battista Borgogno 3 hectares
• Francesco Rinaldi 2.2 hectares makes a wine they label “Cannubbio” of which their importer site (Polaner) says comes from the Cannubi cru.
• Luigi Einaudi 2.2 hectares 
• Giacomo Brezza 1.4 hectares
• Giacomo Borgogno 1.3 hectares
• Michele Chiarlo 1.2 hectares
• Cantine Mascarello Bartolo 1 hectare (not designated such on their labels though)
• Cascina Adelaide di Barolo .54 hectare
• Mrs. Fontana Michelina .51 hectare (Paolo Scavino, producer)
• Marchesi di Barolo .3 hectare
• Tenuta Carretta 2.6 hectares
• G.B. Burlotto.7 hectare
• Fratelli Barale - says on their web site Cannubi zone, Map #8, "indicates they own parcels 14, 15, 16 and 17 of Cannubi, totaling 1 hectare." (thanks to Gerald @ Weimax)
• E. Pira - website “2 hectares in Cannubi and Cannubi San Lorenzo” but doesn’t distinguish clearly enough
• Prunotto
• Giacomo Fenocchio
• Gianni Gagliardo

This adds up to 27.95 hectares, not 15 ( E.Pira's 2 ha. are not confirmed to be in Cannubi-Cannubi)), and doesn't include those from whom I haven't been able to determine what they own.

Masnaghetti's map
Piedmontese friends told me to reference Masnaghetti’s map – but the map doesn’t show hectares. Masnaghetti’s map shows 18 land holders, 19.53 hectares and13 producers who label their wine Cannubi (bold)):
1. Elio Altare
2. Barale
3. Giacomo Borgogno
4. Serio & Battista Borgogno
5. Francesco Boschis
6. Giacomo Brezza
7. G. Camerano
8. Cascina Adelaide
9. Michele Chiarlo
10. Damilano
11. Marchesi di Barolo
12. Bartolo Mascarello
13. E. Pira
14. Luigi Einaudi
15. Francesco Rinaldi
16. Paolo Scavino (assuming this is Mrs. Fontana Michelina)
17. Carretta
18. Privati

Not showing up on my research are:
1. Elio Altare
2. Francesco Boschis
3. G. Camerano
4. Privati

Showing up on my research but not showing up on Masnaghetti’s map:
1. Scarzello
2. Prunotto

3. Giacomo Fenocchio
4. Gianni Gagliardo

*Note - G.B. Burlotto - not on Masnaghettis' map but reporting .7 ha of Cannubi.

If the sun refuse to shine, I don't mind, I don't mind,

So there are only 15 hectares “officially” of Cannubi, let’s call them “Cannubi-Cannubi” and we have 18 producers who use the name on their label. But I have found 17 producers (and 2 vineyard owners-Scarzello and Fontana Michelina) and 27.95 hectares. (?) And four of those I still haven't figured out what they own. And my four don’t jive with Masnaghetti’s “four.”

Reminder that Bartolo Mascarello reports 1 ha. of Cannubi but with no mention of it on their label (which I believe is a conscious decision of theirs).

Add to that G.B Burlotto (reported at .7 ha.) which doesn't show up on Masnaghetti's map (but there is that parcel marked "privati").

Perhaps this is because of family names, but still, it is confusing, and not just for outsiders.

There is this nagging variable between the 15 "official" hectares and the 27.95 "reported" hectares of Cannubi (we’re talking only “Cannubi-Cannubi,” not the other vineyards, Muscatel, Valletta, San Lorenzo and Boschis/Monghisolfo).

So, Ed McCarthy, what is your question, again?

Mine is this: Who’s on first?

As one Piedmontese told me this week –“The math doesn’t work out – someone’s lying.”

Or maybe I just need new reading glasses...

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