Sardinian wines have long been hidden treasures waiting to be discovered by wine lovers worldwide. This charming Italian island in the Mediterranean Sea is home to more than 2,000 kilometers of picturesque coastline and rugged mountain ranges. The unique combination of coastal and mountainous landscapes creates the perfect environment for producing exceptional wines. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the enchanting world of Sardinian wines, taking you through the different grape varieties, tasting notes, and wine recommendations.
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An Introduction To Sardinian Wines
Sardinia boasts an extensive variety of indigenous grapes, including Nuragus, Cannonau, and Vermentino. These grapes produce a diverse range of delightful wines, from bold reds to elegant whites. In this section, we will introduce you to some of the most prominent Sardinian wines and their unique characteristics.
Cannonau: The Signature Red Wine of Sardinia
Cannonau, also known as Cannonau di Sardegna, is the local name for the French Grenache or Spanish Garnacha grape. Recent research suggests that the Grenache grape may have originated on Sardinian soil. Cannonau is the most widely planted grape variety on the island, accounting for around 30% of all grapes grown in Sardinia.
This full-bodied red wine is characterized by low acidity and high alcohol content. Its flavors can range from fruity and charming to dark, rich, and structured, with a hint of spicy earthiness. Some of the best bottles of Cannonau can be found in central Sardinia, particularly in the provinces of Ogliastra and Nuoro.
Vermentino: The Classic White Wine of Sardinia
Vermentino is the quintessential white wine of Sardinia. This grape variety has been grown for centuries in the northern tip of the island, specifically in the Gallura province. Nowadays, it can be found throughout the island, with the finest examples originating from Gallura.
Vermentino vines are often planted facing north to avoid direct sunlight and heat, especially during the summer months. This dry, full-bodied white wine is known for its refreshing acidity and distinct saline minerality. Its flavor profile includes notes of lemon, white flowers, and almond.
Nuragus: The Hidden Gem of Sardinian Wines
Nuragus is a grape variety primarily grown in the southern region of Sardinia, particularly in the Cagliari province. Although it is one of the most cultivated varieties on the island, Nuragus remains relatively unknown outside Sardinia, with only a small quantity exported each year.
This light-bodied, dry white wine is characterized by its approachable nature and marked acidity. Its flavor profile includes citrus fruit, green apples, and a subtle zesty tang.
Carignano del Sulcis: A Sardinian Wine with Spanish Roots
Carignano del Sulcis is a red wine grape variety that originated in Spain and is now cultivated in the southwestern corner of Sardinia. This grape is predominantly grown in the provinces of Sulcis and Carbonia-Iglesias, with more than 4,000 acres dedicated to its production.
Carignano wines are generally light to medium-bodied and exhibit gentle flavors with modest tannins. The rose version of this wine typically has an alcohol content of around 11%, which is lower than many other international rose wines.
Bovale: A Wine with a Wild Side
Bovale is a grape variety that has 24 different names due to the various dialects spoken in Sardinia. Regardless of the name, this grape is primarily grown in the Mandrolisai area, within the province of Nuoro.
Bovale is one of the few grape varieties in the world with a distinct genetic similarity to wild grapevines. Despite its wild nature, Bovale is a smooth and uncomplicated wine. It has a well-balanced tannic structure, making it a delightful medium-bodied red wine with medium acidity and fruity aromas of blue and red berries.
Exploring The Lesser-Known Sardinian Wines
In addition to the prominent Sardinian wines mentioned above, the island is home to several lesser-known but equally captivating wines. In this section, we will introduce you to some of these hidden gems and their unique characteristics.
Malvasia: A Breezy White Wine with a Romantic Touch
Malvasia is a white wine grape variety with several sub-varieties, including both red and white grapes. In Sardinia, the Malvasia grape is primarily used to produce a white wine known as Malvasia di Bosa, which is one of the rarest wines in Sardinia.
This wine can be either dry or sweet, with the sweet version being more popular. Malvasia di Bosa is characterized by its romantic notes of honeysuckle and almond, making it a truly enchanting wine.
Vernaccia: An Ancient Sherry-Like Fortified White Wine
Vernaccia is an intriguing fortified white wine that has been cultivated on Sardinia’s west coast, around Oristano, for over 3,000 years. Legend has it that the Phoenicians first introduced the grape to the island.
This full-bodied white wine has a high alcohol content, ranging from 15 to 19%. When young, Vernaccia exhibits musty and nutty aromas. As it ages, the wine develops a complex umami flavor profile that is both intriguing and delightful.
Pascale di Cagliari: A Lesser-Known Red Wine with Tuscan Roots
Pascale di Cagliari, also known as Giacomino or Barberone, is a red wine grape variety originally from Tuscany but now cultivated in Sardinia. This ruby-red wine is rich in tannin and gentle on the palate.
Although Pascale di Cagliari is not a widely known grape variety, it is often blended with other varieties, such as Carignano, to create unique and flavorful wines.
The Best Sardinian Wine Recommendations
Now that we have explored the enchanting world of Sardinian wines let us share some of our top recommendations for each variety.
Top Cannonau Wines
- Pala 2013 Riserva of Cannonau di Sardegna: This exquisite wine offers flavors of ripe raspberries, anise, and pepper, with velvety tannins.
- Contini 2014 Sartiglia Cannonau: Rich and round, this wine features notes of wild herbs, cherries, and blackberries, with smooth tannins.
Top Vermentino Wines
- Vigne Surrau 2014 Sciala Superiore: A creamy, well-balanced wine with saline minerality and congenial acidity.
- Piero Mancini 2014: A juicy, fruit-forward wine with notes of peach and apricot.
Top Nuragus Wines
- S’Elegas Nuragus di Cagliari from Argiolas: A soft, dry wine with high alcohol content and notes of melon, pear, and honey.
- Cantine di Dolianova Perlas Nuragus di Cagliari: A well-balanced wine with delicate nuances of ripe apple and white flowers.
Top Carignano del Sulcis Wines
- Cantina Mesa 2013 Buio: A straightforward wine with notes of cranberry, cherry, and basaltic, along with elegant tannins.
- Cantina Santadi Terre Brune: A riserva wine aged in barrique, this intense garnet-colored wine carries notes of dark marasca cherries and a hint of clove.
Top Bovale Wines
- La Giara, Bovale Isola Dei Nuraghi 2016: This wine has great depth and pronounced floral and fruit notes.
- Pala Essentija Bovale: An earthy red wine with aromas of leather and soil, this wine is difficult to find but well worth the effort.
Final Thoughts On Sardinian Wines
Whether you are planning a trip to Sardinia or looking to expand your wine collection, we hope this handy guide has provided you with valuable insights into the magical world of Sardinian wines. With their diverse range of flavors and unique characteristics, these wines are sure to captivate your senses and transport you to the idyllic landscapes of Sardinia.
So, raise a glass and toast to the enchanting world of Sardinian wines – Alla salute!
Bonus: Wine Tasting Experiences in Sardinia
If you plan to visit Sardinia, consider going on a wine tasting tour to gain a deeper understanding of Sardinian wines and their production process. Many wineries offer wine tasting experiences, complete with fascinating insights into the history of the vineyard and the winemaking process. Some of the best wine tours can be found at Cantine Argiolas in Serdiana, Cantine Pala, and Sella e Mosca in Alghero.
For a truly memorable experience, consider attending one of Sardinia’s many wine festivals, such as Cantine Aperte in Serdiana, Calici Sotto Le Stelle in Jerzu, or the Sagra del Vino Novello in San Vero Milis. These events offer a unique opportunity to sample a wide range of Sardinian wines while immersing yourself in the island’s rich culture and traditions.