Allegrini 2018

The history of the small vineyard in the Cannubi cru, owned by the Municipality of Barolo

1.600 square meters, till today, free, now have been removed for replanting. The Municipality said it “will be reassigned, but no longer free”

There is a vineyard owned by the municipality in The Langhe, one of the most famous and popular wine regions in the world. It is a historic vineyard, only 1.600 square meters in size, located in Muscatel di Cannubi, among the Barolo crus. Luigi Rinaldi donated the vineyard to the Municipality of Barolo in the 1980s, which, in 2003, assigned it to the winemaker Giulio Viglione on a free loan. Now, 16 years later, the city Municipality has decided to take it back.
“Two months ago”, the Councilor of the Municipality of Barolo, Federico Scarzello told WineNews, “we had the vineyard eradicated. The initial idea was to restructure it, replacing the dead vines and refurbishing the structure of the rows, to give it a nicer appearance. However, upon inspection, we noticed that the number of strains to be replaced was much larger than the number of those that would have survived. Since the structure of the vineyard was obsolete and there was substantial work to be done, we concluded that it would be more appropriate to replant instead of renovating. I certainly would have preferred to keep the vineyard, but its conditions did not support that decision”.
“Many plants”, Scarzello continued, “were left uncut so that their branches covered the various dead vines. The offshoots had overtaken the vines and the cuttings planted in an old vineyard were struggling to grow. In the lower part of the vineyard there were even some Barbera vines, which showed symptoms of flavescence dorée. All of these issues together pushed us to redo the vineyard, as all winemakers around the world do”.
The winemaker Giulio Viglione, 74, was born and raised in the Langhe. He received the announcement of the end of the loan in January 2020, when he had already completed pruning. “But it wasn't something out of the blue for him”, Scarzello pointed out, “we had been warning him about it for the past few years. However, he accepted without making a big fuss (unlike, instead, recently, the title of a communication from the “Triple A - Farmers Artisans Artists” Association that brings together wine artisans from all over Italy, which was much more exaggerated: “They have eliminated the ancient Italian Romanée-Conti vineyards”). As for the genetic heritage of the vineyard, let me say that the Municipality of Barolo was not in a position to make a mass selection; it would have taken too much time. Actually, those who have managed the vineyard up till now could do it, but I don’t believe it has been done, mainly because some of the dead vines had been replaced with stem cuttings. It seemed no special attention was being paid to the genetic heritage of the vineyard”. The Municipality’s position obviously has its counterpart in that of the producer and the “Triple A” Association who, just yesterday, wrote a new article on the topic.
“Neither Giulio Viglione nor we”, wrote Pietro Fasola, “are making an economic issue of the damage, but rather the loss of an immense wealth for the entire national wine scene. And, we do not hesitate to reaffirm it. The Triple “A” Association have a vision of wine that admits no exceptions. Instead, we believe that eliminating a vineyard that has plants over 80 years old is, and will remain, pure folly. Further, seeing institutions not protecting those that are unique in the sector is a profound disappointment. Motivations of necessity are often used to justify interventions of this type. This time the rationale was found in the conditions of the vineyard, considered precarious. We have talked again to Giulio Viglione and, although we made a mistake on the size of the land, which we rectify (it is 1.600 square meters), Giulio claimed that the number of dead vines was less than 15%, more than 50% of the plants was over 80 years old and only 4 or 5 vines were affected by flavescence dorée, which were immediately replanted.
Moreover, if the “very critical” data on the condition of the vineyard, provided by some producers, were reliable, then how can they explain that Giulio produced over 1.000 bottles per year on average (during the 2019 vintage they produced 850 liters of Barolo Cannubi, relative documentation attached). According to the maximum limits the specifications allow, only up to 896 liters of Barolo can be produced on a 1.600 square meter plot. Further, considering the alleged diseased plants, the age of the vineyards and the presence of three rows of Barbera in the vineyard, one wonders how, in fact, it was possible to achieve such a production volume. The information we have received from Giulio, states that the conditions of the vineyard were not as precarious as one would believe, to justify the removal of the vineyard”.
Beyond the contrasting opinions, it is certain that the area will remain for viticulture. After some maintenance work has been completed, now stopped due to the health emergency, the ground will be given a rest period and then replanted and it will be assigned in the future to a new manager. It will, however, no longer be free of charge, specified Scarzello, councilor of the Municipality of Barolo, “because the perspectives have changed. In 2003 the Municipality had to study the area, but today the destination is clear and that is why took action to reinstate it”.
In just a few years, the value of vine planted hectares in Barolo has exceeded 2 million euros, and the figures are higher for the best crus. Therefore, even a small fraction of a vineyard, for a small town like Barolo, which does not count 800 inhabitants, can become a very important economic resource.

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