Saturday, May 27, 2017

Cannubi Hill and its associated Barolo subzones

During my mid-May trip to Piemonte, I visited a number of estates that produce wines made from grapes sourced from one or more of the five Cannubi subzones. These subzones are five of 170 MGAs in Barolo DOCG and five of 37 MGAs in the commune of Barolo (An MGA (Menzioni Geografiche Aggiuntive) is a "more specific officially delimited area of production located within the Barolo DOCG appellation.").

The name Cannubi had historically been associated with the vineyard on the central part of the hill while the vineyard to the northeast was named Boschis/Monghisolfo and those to the southeast were named San Lorenzo, Valletti, and Muscatel, in that order. In 1995, the Commune of Barolo allowed the non-historic Cannubi vineyards to affix the name Cannubi to their vineyard names such that they were then referred to as Cannubi Boschis, Cannubi San Lorenzo, Cannubi Valleti, and Cannubi Muscatel. Subsequent legal rulings allowed these vineyards to be referenced in this latter manner or to be simply called Cannubi. In that manner, a producer using grapes from the historic San Lorenzo vineyard can either label the wines produced therefrom as Cannubi San Lorenzo or Cannubi.

When the Padano Sea retreated from what is today's Langhe, it left behind layers of clay, calcareous marl, blue marl, tufa, sand, and sulfur-bearing chalk. The Barolo zone is divided into two soil subzones based on the age of the deposits. To the west, the soils around the towns of Barolo and La Morra are composed of a calcareous (limestone-rich) marl with high levels of sand -- referred to as Tortonian (11 - 7 million years ago) -- that yields aromatic, elegant, medium-bodied wines which evolve in the bottle earlier than their counterparts.  The wines from the Barolo commune are thought to be more complex, and broader in texture, than the more perfumed and graceful La Morra wines. The Langhian (until the 1960s, Helvetian) soil around the communes of Serralunga d'Alba, Monforte d'Alba, and Castiglione Falletto was deposited between 16 and 13 million years ago. The soils of this zone are mostly calcareous clay marls with little sand content and produces a wine that is more structured and requires longer aging.

Cannubi is a long, gradually sloping hill which extends northeast from the village of Barolo and is contained in its entirety within the namesake commune. According to the Marchesi di Barolo website, Cannubi hill is protected from storms and extreme weather by higher neighboring hills. Both Damilano and Marchesi di Barolo point to the uniqueness of the hill in that it sits at the convergence of the aforementioned Helvetian and Tortonian soil zones resulting in "grey-blue marls rich in magnesium and manganese carbonate that, on the surface, thanks to the air and the weathering, turn into grey-white marls" (Marchesi di Barolo).

The red oval indicates location of the Cannubi hill 
The vital statistics of the Cannubi subzones, as well as the producers plying their trade therein, are contained within Masnaghetti's Barolo MGA. I have consolidated that data and present them in the charts below.

Note that all of the above sub-zones have the legal right
to be called Cannubi (Sources: Map is an extract from the official Barolo map;
data from Masnaghetti's MGA

Note that all of the above sub-zones have the legal right 
to be called Cannubi.
Antonio Galloni has divided the Barolo crus into four classes -- Exceptional, Outstanding, Noteworthy, and Delimited -- broadly correlating to the Burgundy classification scheme of Grand Cru, Premier Cru, Village, and Region. The characterization of these classes, and his placement of the Cannubi crus within that schema, is indicated in the table below. According to Galloni, "Cannubi is the most famous and well-known vineyard in Barolo, but it has rarely produced wines that in my view stand with the very best in Piedmont."

RatingExplanationCannubi Cru
ExceptionalVineyards that consistently produce distinctive wines of a very high quality, irrespective of the quality or style of the year

Outstanding… often produce wines of true personality and class but do so less consistently than Exceptional vineyardsCannubi Boschis or Cannubi
Cannubi San Lorenzo or Cannubi
Cannubi Valletta or Cannubi
NoteworthyA vineyard that over the years has proven to be the source of distinctive winesCannubi
Cannubi Muscatel or Cannubi
DelimitedGeographically delimited; little, no, or undistinguished track record

I will be reprising my visit to Chiara Boschis' E. Pira e Figli in my first post on the Piedmont winery visit.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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