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The Wines of Sardinia

The Italian Wines Project continues, and this time we are in Sardinia. This wild and beautiful island prides itself on having some of the most gorgeous beaches in Italy, but this is not the only reason to visit it. Sardinia is a wonderful destination for wine enthusiasts as well because the unique climate and terrain enable the production of several surprising and particularly delicious wines. Are you curious? Come and have a sip with us!

Grapes in Sardinia
Grapes in Sardinia - Photo by unsplash

Sardinia is not easy to explain. It is understandable why this region has been granted domestic autonomy because it is unlike any other place in the country. At first glance, it may seem like a classic tourist destination: the beaches are stunning, the food is delicious, and the walking trails are fascinating. However, Sardinia holds a unique and mysterious charm. It is a destination that is difficult to decipher and understand, deeply influenced by thousands of years of traditions that still exist in hidden places on the island.

Sardinia offers its visitors gorgeous nature and fascinating archaeological sites, colorful and unique towns, and delicious food. What about the wine? I am glad you asked. Sardinian wine is fantastic, and it is time for it to receive its rightful attention.

In this article, we will review some of the most prominent wines of the island and discover some lesser-known gems. Before we begin: In Italian, the spelling is ‘Sardegna,’ so the names of the wines will be spelled accordingly, e.g., Monica di Sardegna rather than Monica di Sardinia.

Cannonau di Sardegna DOC

The Cannonau is undoubtedly one of the most famous and common Sardinian wines. Understanding this iconic wine requires knowledge of the grape variety from which it is produced, which carries the same name, Cannonau.

The Cannonau grapes are related to the French Grenache grapes and are considered the most ancient grape variety in the Mediterranean area: archaeological digs in Sardinia have revealed evidence of Cannonau cultivation dating back 3000 years. The Cannonau grapes are the basis of several wines, and the most well-known among them is the Cannonau di Sardegna DOC – a velvety, powerful wine characterized by complex aromas (herbs and sweet spices).

The Cannonau may be produced all over the island by law, but it obviously varies in taste significantly in different areas. A quick look at the map confirms that the terrain varies dramatically in different regions of the island. Therefore, even if two vineyards plant the same grape variety, the resulting Cannonau wine will vary significantly. It is certainly possible to taste two bottles of Cannonau wine so different in taste that you might ask yourself if it is indeed the same wine. If that sounds odd, you are not the only one to think the method is imperfect. Many producers and critics criticize this method, and Italians have been discussing the need to rearrange the wine regions on the island for many years. Who knows, someday this might happen. Until then, you should know there are three subregions producing particularly interesting Cannonau wine: Nepente di Oliena, Capo Ferrato, and Jerzu.

There are several wines under the Cannonau wine category: Cannonau Rosé, Cannonau Rosso, Cannonau Rosso Classico, Cannonau Rosso Riserva, sweet dessert wine (liquoroso), and dry, very aromatic dessert wine. By law, to call a wine Cannonau di Sardegna DOC, it must be made with at least 85% Cannonau grapes (grown on the island, naturally) and aged for at least two years.

In my opinion, some of the best Cannonau wines come from the southern part of the island, specifically the Province of Nuoro, and the eastern part, the area of Ogliastra. These wines, known as Classico, are made with at least 90% Cannonau grapes and are characterized by particularly enticing aromas. It is interesting to note that wine produced specifically here has gained fame not only for its excellent taste but also for its alleged contribution to the local life expectancy.

The island of Sardinia is renowned as a Blue Zone, meaning a remarkable percentage of the population lives to a hundred years of age or beyond. This topic captivates researchers. It appears that in addition to genetic factors, the well-balanced Mediterranean nutrition, featuring polyphenol-rich Cannonau wine, regular exercise, and strong family bonds, play crucial roles fostering longevity. And if you’re seeking another incentive to visit, you should know the area boasts particularly stunning beaches!

Where can I taste excellent Cannonau wines?

You should try the wonderful wines produced by the Giuseppe Sedilesu winery.

Vermentino di Sardegna and Vermentino di Gallura

The most common and widely consumed wine in Sardinia is Vermentino, as one would expect on an island where most day-to-day activities take place along the coastline. Vermentino grapes are the basis for several wines, but the two most famous and high-quality are Vermentino di Sardegna and Vermentino di Gallura.

According to the law, Vermentino di Sardegna may be produced throughout the island, with notable production in the provinces of Cagliari, Alghero, Sassari, and Oristano. The quality and taste of the wine naturally vary depending on its place of production. In general, Vermentino di Sardegna is a dry and pleasantly crisp white wine, very suitable for a light aperitivo or even as a complement to grilled fish. The proximity to the sea offers a significant advantage, as the salt-laden breeze not only imparts pleasant minerality to the wine but also helps protect the grapevines and balance the extreme temperatures of summer.

Vermentino enthusiasts – and I count myself as one of them – probably know the wines produced from this excellent grape in the regions of Tuscany and Liguria but note that the true ‘kingdom’ of Vermentino is in Sardinia, and the Vermentino wines of the island are unique.

As opposed to the Cannonau, Vermentino grapes do not originate in Sardinia, and researchers are divided on the question of how they got to the island. Some claim they originated in the north of Italy, while others believe they came from France. Whatever the source, Vermentino is nowadays an honorable Sardinian citizen.

According to the wine law, Vermentino must be produced from a minimum of 85% Vermentino grapes (and 15% non-aromatic white grapes). Vermentino di Sardegna is characterized by aromas of white flowers, pleasant fruitiness, and a very delicately bitter aftertaste. There is also a sparkling version of this wine.

On the other hand, Vermentino di Gallura stands in a league of its own. It is the only Sardinian wine to be considered DOCG and is acclaimed as the highest-quality wine produced on the island and one of Italy’s finest white wines. This wine impresses with its elegance, boasting wonderful minerality, full-bodied richness, and a perfect complement to ‘serious’ dishes like fish and shellfish.

Where can I try the excellent Vermentino di Sardegna?

You should try the wines of Cantina Surrau.

Carignano del Sulcis DOC

One of the best red wines on the island comes from the southernmost part of Sardinia, in the subregion of Sulcis. The Carignano wine is much less well-known than the Cannonau, but it is definitely worth discovering! This red wine embodies the flavors of the sea and local flora. It is mineral, full-bodied, and bursting with enticing flavors of fruit and jam, and the aroma of spices. It is undoubtedly one of my personal favorite Sardinian wines, and it’s unfortunate that it’s difficult to find in stores outside the island.

To explore our Carignano del Sulcis wines, click here.

Where can I try excellent Carignano wine?

You should try the high-quality wines of Cantina di Santadi.

Monica di Sardegna

Another red wine virtually unknown outside of Italy is Monica. It is made from grapes of the same name, resulting in a medium-bodied wine characterized by round tannins and aromas of fruit and flowers, predominantly cherries and berries. This wine, simpler than Carignano or Cannonau, is perfect for enjoying with a light family lunch.

Where can I try high-quality Monica wine?

You can find it at the Santa Maria La Palma winery.

Romangia IGT

Not all high-quality wines are necessarily defined as DOC or DOCG. To discover hidden gems, explore with your taste buds and try new varieties. Romangia is a wonderful wine produced in the Province of Sassari, but it remains largely unknown compared to the island’s more popular wines.

Romangia wines come in several versions, including red, white, and sparkling, and are made from a blend of typical local grapes.

Where can I try excellent Romangia wine?

You should try the special and unforgettable wines of the Tenute Dettori winery.

Turriga IGT and Isola dei Nuraghi IGT

One of Sardinia’s most important wines is Turriga, produced in the Isola dei Nuraghi area from Cannonau, Carignano, Bovale Sardo, and Malvasia Nera grapes. This wine doesn’t joke around: it’s full-bodied with a commanding presence and a rich, elegant, almost dramatic bouquet, I would say. This type is excellent as a gift to an important meal or event. Expect to pay at least 80 Euros per bottle, comparable to the Amarone or Brunello wines.

Where can I try excellent Turriga wine?

Turriga is exclusively produced by the Argiolas winery. It’s a wine that offers a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and the price of especially successful grape harvests can skyrocket.

If you don’t feel like paying these prices, consider trying this wine’s ‘younger brother’: Isola dei Nuraghi Rosso IGT by the Tani winery. This wine is fantastic and slightly more affordable, priced at about 50 Euros per bottle. It’s important to note that this winery generally produces some of the best Sardinian wines I have tasted, and it regularly wins awards at wine competitions.

The Isola di Nuraghi IGT wines come in several varieties (red, white, sparkling, etc.) and are produced all over the island, but, of course, the quality varies. The romantic name, meaning ‘Island of Nuraghi’, refers to historic megalithic edifices, called Nuraghe, found all over Sardinia.

The best way to enjoy these wines is alongside traditional Sardinian dishes. To read our article on the most important and delicious Sardinian dishes, click here!

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