Defining Bottles: Damilano Barolo Cannubi DOCG 2008


I am true sucker for wines that bring everything to the table—those special wines that once you take your first sip, you realize that there are only a few like it in the universe. One of those wines, the 2008 Damilano Barolo Cannubi DOCG, fits into that category. It is a bold red wine from Nebbiolo grapes grown in the Langhe section of the Piedmont region in northern Italy.

Last night I opened a bottle (approximately $79 retail) to acknowledge a recent achievement in my life. It was drizzly night and a good time to celebrate.

The sparkling was on hold, even though I toyed with the idea of opening a bottle of Berlucchi Franciacorta Brut.

However, the thought of celebrating with one of the the premier Barolo Cannubi’s in the world sent chills up my spine.

Yes, its 15% alcohol and yes, it should be decanted before using. I had that under control.

Add Piedmont’s gastronomic treasure, the white truffle to the scenario and the regions high quality and standards are hard to match. To me, the match of white truffles and Barolo Cannubi sounds like a match made in heaven.

I was not so lucky as to have a white truffle hidden away for that special moment. What I had was my back-up, black truffles in many forms, whole and in a truffle paste. I chose the paste. What I did was quite simple. I made a truffle pizza to pair with this hearty wine.

The Cannubi was decanting. I could smell its aromatics of fresh flowers and peaches.

It was now time to develop a special pizza for this special wine.  I topped a pizza shell with mascarpone. Then I added freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano to the mascarpone and on top of that I added a layer of black truffle paste.

The magic begins.

As the pizza was baking, I started to think about the winemaker, Paolo Damilano, and his recent visit to America. Damilano, who farms 25 acres of Cannubi, the largest Cannubi vineyard in Piedmont, talked about his wines and was candid about his wine life at the vineyard.

Philip Kampe: How do you maintain Damilano’s high standards from year to year?

Paolo Damilano: Before the harvest, you know, we have to control the vineyards, cut the foliage, pruning and so on. Everything is important. We know we are making wines that, first of all, have to live for 30, 40 and maybe 50 years. Everything is important—the bottles, the corks, the vineyard, everything.

PK: What are the ages of the vines?

PD: At the Cannubi vineyard the vines are 40-50 years old. But, I don’t know if you know, that in 2008, we had the possibility to renovate part of the Cannubi because many of the vines are very old. After too many years, you have to replant the vines.

PK: Please comment on the alcohol level of Cannubi.

PD: Before the grapes are harvested, we make the selection of the grapes. We leave on the vines only the best bunches of grapes to decrease the yield to make those bunches of better quality. The more concentration and best quality mean a higher percentage of alcohol. Customers have to look for the elegance of the wine, not the power of the wine. So, many times when you taste my Cannubi, you don’t taste the 14% or 15% of alcohol.

PK: Has your process of making wines changed through the years?

Paolo Damilano by Megan Battista
Paolo Damilano by Megan Battista

PD: As you know, the world of wine changes very quickly. And so in the last year we changed a little bit of our style. For example, for the Cannubi, we use the barrique from the vintage 97’, but now, we made the decision to use big barrels for the 2008 and 2009. We understand that in the big barrel you can taste the typical concentration of the Cannubi much more than in the barrique.

PK: How long do your customers traditionally hold onto bottles before opening?

PD: I think there is a great level of maturation after ten years. It is very important for us to show the customer that we are making wines that can last twenty, thirty and even forty years.

Many believe that Damilano Barolo Cannubi is the pride of Piedmont. The area produces two iconic wines - Barolo and Barbaresco. Both are made from the Nebbiolo grape, both wines are a bit tannic when young, but, develop with great elegance and complexity as they age.

The pizza was ready and so was my palate.

I poured a glass of the Cannubi from the decanter, closed my eyes and went into another world—the world of my palate--sweet red raspberries, light tannins, rose water and dark chocolate, all held together by a hint of oak. The complex flavors flowed like a silky river that flowed for miles and miles.

After little thought, who really wants pizza when you can savor each drop of the 2008 Damilano Barolo Cannubi on its own?