Giovanni Canonica, the hidden treasure of Barolo

We have met Giovanni Canonica in a july morning, the Barolo’s sky, which changes rapidly from red-hot sun to the cloudy mugginess up to the sudden rain, seems to anticipate the character we are going to know, if not anarchic at least “bastian-contrario” as the local people say.

Giovanni hosts us in his home, right in the centre of the village, in Via Roma avenue. Where there’s also his agritourism, which not by chance is called “Il Quarto Stato”, the masterpiece of the painter Pelliza da Volpedo, symbol of the italian working class fights at the end of the 19th century.

But Giovanni Canonica is not an activist and neither a politician, he’s just a vintner with few hectares of land in Barolo and Grinzane Cavour villages, from whose eyes you can soon perceive a lot of generosity and an unceasing will of thinking and use the brain. A genuine soul and an authentic vintner.

When for example we ask him how he uses to work in the vineyard he explains “I just use common sense. I’m not interested in certifications. I see many producers who just stick a green mark on their wines but then they completely don’t respect their land”. “In the vineyard i just use copper and sulfur and terpenic oils from the pine tree, which have also a good fragrance, between the rows i don’t cut the herbs, few green harvest just to guarantee the sanity of the grapes”

The vineyards we are talking about are in total just three hectares, two in the cru “Paiagallo” in Barolo and one hectar in Grinzane Cavour, for a production of just seven thousand bottles, which finish very rapidly every year and became very rare for their many lovers. The “Paiagallo” plot is located at an altitude of about 350 meters with a south-east exposure and stands just in front the prestigious cru “Cannubi”. The soil has an high quantity of clay, classic for the best vineyards in the Barolo region, Paiagallo has also a favorable microclimate thanks to the repair of a little scarp which goes down from the road that goes to Novello.

But the best comes when he explains us how he works in the cellar “I begun to do wine in 1983. At that time i did not use to remove the stalks from the grapes, i pressed them with feet and i didn’t use sulphuric anhydride. The wine was as it came. Nobody wanted to drink it, people say the wine wasn’t clean, so i used to bottle just a small portion and the rest was sold as cask wine or in big demijohn. The turning point is been the coming of some Japanese people, they were really enthusiast about my wine and they bought all the wine. It was about the 2000 and from that time i understood the potential of my wine and that i could bottle all the production. Now i remove stalks and the grape pressing is mechanized, i do long maceration of about 30-40 days and than i let the wine in big slavonian oak casks”. Today his wine is less extreme than it was once, but is still a great Barolo, a wine really authentic, unconventional and at the same time traditional,  a wine so aristocratic as still a farm wine, a real hidden treasure for the ones who want rediscover the authentic old school tradition of Langa’s Barolos.

Final discussion about which is his favorite wine “there are wines that stick in your mind and for some reason became unforgettable to you. My best wine is for sure a Barolo made by Giuseppe Rinaldi, 1985 vintage, drunk in the beginning of the 90’s, fabulous. But there are also wines that are offered to you with the heart and for this reason are equally unforgettable. For example when i was young i used to attend a tavern in a small village, Bonvicino, three people worked there, two brothers and one sister, everybody around seventy years old. The wine served was just one, a dolcetto quite dirty and acid, nothing special. After we become habitual customers the owner offered us a big bottle without label and saying - this wine is the ours, we offer it only to friends, it’s another thing! - to be honest the wine was even worst than the usual one but it was offered with the heart, and for this reason will be forever one of my favorite wine. Wine is also about this things”.


Discover Giovanni Canonica’s Barolo on