Did you know that the Island of Sardinia produces some of the best wine grapes in the world? Bristol Bar & Grille Master Sommelier Scott Harper shares his knowledge of the beautiful Mediterranean Island and recommends a few Sardinian wines to try from family wineries throughout the area.
The Island of Sardinia is the second largest Island in the Mediterranean after Sicily and before Cyprus. This Italian state is located west of Rome and south of Corsica and is around 9,300 square miles. Topographically, it is hillier than mountainous. It has some plains and rugged cliffs with perfect coastlines. Combine that natural beauty with a warm Mediterranean climate and it is perfect for growing wine grapes and olives, and attracting tourists.
As with many strategic islands, Sardinia has changed over the centuries. The island’s most prominent influence is the Spanish Kingdom of Aragon, which ruled Sardinia for almost 400 years. Because of the Spanish influence, you see several Spanish grape varieties used in Sardinian wine-making. The most important red grape is Cannonau, which is the same grape as Grenacha. Grenacha originates in Spain, but is known as Grenache in France. The Grenache grape produces some outstanding wine in the south of the France Rhone Valley. Cannonau makes an absolutely delicious, full-bodied wine full of ripe cherries and raspberries, spice and a touch of earth. Another grape originating in Spain is Monica. Monica produces wine in varying styles and is one of the oldest vines in Sardinia.
The primary white grape of Sardinia is Vermentino. This grape cannot trace its lineage to Spain, but instead to Italy. It is most known as a Sardinian grape, but is planted in Liguria and Piedmont. In Liguria this white grape is known Pigato, and in Piedmont it is called Favorita. Vermentino is a perfect accompaniment for seafood. The finest example is produced in northern Sardinia in an area called Gallura. Vermentino di Gallura has been classified as one of Italy’s top wines by receiving the highest legal quality designation, DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita). Vermentino di Gallura is hard to find, but it has more body, richness and some oak.
The Sardinian’s enjoy drinking wine and eating the Mediterranean diet. This is perhaps why it possesses one of the world’s largest populations of centenarians in the world.
The following Sardinian wines to try are surprisingly easy to find at quality wine shops:
Sardinian wines to try: Argiolas wines
Argiolas is just north of the capital city of Cagliari in southern Sardinia. It is arguably one of the most well-known leaders of Sardinian wine. Owned by Franco and Giuseppe Argiolas, Argiolas uses predominantly indigenous Sardinian vines. Founded in 1937, the estate has 575 acres under vine. They produce just fewer than 185,000 cases of wine a year. They utilize the practice of sustainable agriculture under winemaker Mariano Murru.
Vermentino di Sardegna Costamolino 2011 is a pale straw yellow color with green highlights. It is dry, medium-bodied and linear with the flavors of citrus peel, green apple, quince and minerals. This wine is very crisp, tangy, vivacious and persistent. It is a perfect accompaniment to grilled fish with citrus sauces. It is also delicious as an aperitif.
Isola Dei Nuraghi Perdera 2009 is made from the Monica grape grown in the Perdera vineyard, and has an intense ruby red color. It is dry, low in tannin, and full of body. The flavors include blackberry, pepper, leather, baking spices and oak. Try it with grilled meats such as lamb or pork.
Sardinian wines to try: Pala wines
Pala’s winery was originally a produce of bulk wines sold to other producers. Founded in 1950, the owner Mario Pala has transformed his winery into a leader of quality wines. Located in the small town of Serdiana very close to the capital city of Cagliari, winemaker Ercole Iannone makes 30,000 cases from 68 hectares of vines. Pala has six different vineyard areas. He farms them with great respect and devotion to the land.
Vermentino di Sardegna Il Fiori 2011 is a pale straw yellow color with green highlights. It is dry, fresh, medium body with flavors of Meyer lemon, green Bosc pear, light herbs and refreshing wet stone minerals. Intense, linear and long, this wine serves well as a first wine, or is delicious with shellfish or seafood stew.
Cannonau di Sardegna Il Fiori 2011 is a purple to ruby red color. Cannonau is the Sardinian name for Grenache. It includes kirshwasser red fruit, black berry, spice and earth. Full-bodied with soft tannin and a rich aftertaste. Try it with roasted meats such as pork or grilled sausages.