Sardegna - Food and Wines - Wines
Isolation in mid-Mediterranean has made Sardinia the most idiosyncratic of Italian regions. Its history has been influenced as much by foreigners - Spaniards in particular - as by other Italians.
The island's vines tell a story of their own, frequently with a Spanish accent. The Mediterranean stalwarts are there in the various clones of Muscat and Malvasia, but several other varities are practically unique in Italy, such as Giro`, Cannonau, Nuragus, Monica, Torbato and Vernaccia di Oristano.
Sardinia's major vineyard area is the Campidano, the fertile plains and low, rolling hills northwest of the capital and major port of Cagliari. The varieties grown there - Ciro`, Malvasia, Monica, Moscato, Nasco and Nuragus - carry the name of Cagliari in their denominations.
The northwestern coastal area around Sassari and Alghero and the wooded slopes of the Gallura peninsula in the northeast are noted for quality whites. Vermentino dominates the dry wines, though the non-DOC Torbato can be every bit as distinguished. Moscato is notable from Sorso and Sennori and Tempio Pausania. Vineyards in the rugged eastern coastal range around Nuoro are noted for the rich, red Cannonau.
Much of Sardinia's production is carried out by cooperatives. Amont DOC wines, whites predominate by nearly two to one over reds. The most popular white variety is Nuragus, which is believed to have been brought there by the Phoenicians. Its name derives from the island's prehistoric stone towers known as "nuraghe". Nuragus is the source of a modern dry white, clean and crisp if rather neutral in flavour.
Vermentino, a variety also planted in Liguria and parts of Tuscany, makes a white of distinct style in Sardinia, notably in the Gallura zone, though it can now be produced throughout the region as a light, often fizzy DOC wine.
The island's two important red varieties are Cannonau, a relative of the Granacha brought from Spain, and Monica, also of Spanish origin. Both can by dry or sweet, though trends favour the dry type toned down in strength from the traditionally heroic proportions. Cannonau of note comes from the towns of Oliena, Jerzu and Dorgali and the coastal hills of Capo Ferrato. It makes a fine sweet wine, which can be reminiscent of Port, as in the rich Anghelu Ruju. Carignano del Sulcis, from the southwest, is also of Spanish origin. A curiosity among the reds in the moderately sweet Ciro` di Cagliari.
Moscato can be either still or sparkling. Malvasia may be sweet, but is perhaps most impressive dry from the west coast town of Bosa and the Planargia hills.
The most distinctive of Sardinian wines is Vernaccia di Oristano. From a vine of uncertain origin grown in the flat, sandy Tirso river basin around Oristano, it becomes a Sherry-like amber wine with a rich array of nuances in bouquet and flavour.