Giovanni Canonica

Giovanni Canonica is a hidden legend in the town of Barolo. He and his family run a small agriturismo where, in the cellars below, he makes his wines. He has only 1.5 hectares of vines in the Paiagallo vineyard directly on the hill above Barolo. The only other proprietors in this vineyard site are Marchesi de Gresy and Fontanafredda, neither of whom does a mono-vineyard bottling from it, but which Gianni proves, in the right hands, merits consideration. His holdings are also separated from the conventional vineyard work of the other producers in a way that keeps as much integrity to Canonica's vineyard work as possible.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it’s the overall methodology of trying to reach for the stars that separates the wheat from the chaff.

Giovanni Canonica is a hidden legend in the town of Barolo. He and his family run a small agriturismo where, in the cellars below, he makes his wines. He has only 1.5 hectares of vines in the Paiagallo vineyard directly on the hill above Barolo. The only other proprietors in this vineyard site are Marchesi de Gresy and Fontanafredda, neither of whom does a mono-vineyard bottling from it, but which Gianni proves, in the right hands, merits consideration. His holdings are also separated from the conventional vineyard work of the other producers in a way that keeps as much integrity to Canonica's vineyard work as possible. The vineyard is planted in Nebbiolo in the best spots and Barbera in the spots not suited to Nebbiolo. Everything is traditional in vineyard and cellar: no herbicides, pesticides or fertilizers, only sulfur and copper treatments, destemming, maceration for 30-40 days using only indigenous yeasts, vertical hand press, then into cement and slavonian oak for aging. A small number of bottles are made, mostly sold at cellar, but after a few years of asking and cajoling, Gianni is selling us some. We couldn't be happier. This is a beautiful, distinctively traditional Barolo from a singular, interesting and empathic guy.

At the moment our producers, being “traditionalist”, are in vogue. It is flattering to see the press and mass consumer body increasingly acclaim this list of producers as top of the league. However I have seen wine trends come and go, and the ratings are not what counts. Important is how these people work day in and day out, their sacrifices, how great their vineyards are, long-term focus on what’s best for the wines, and certainly the character of the person also plays a part in the equation. Whether because the wine is rude, dirty, over-priced, all of these human attributes lend their weight to the final product which is wine. Lately it is no longer enough for me that the wine is natural or extraordinary, the holistic picture of the winery that emerges must make sense. I am not a star chaser and I pride myself slightly narcissistically on having a pretty good nose for the next wine revelation. It’s really not that difficult. It’s a sum of parts that, if they come together, create magic. If any nascent wine producers happen to read these remarks, please don’t be put off. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it’s the overall methodology of trying to reach for the stars that separates the wheat from the chaff.

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