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 Editorial  Share this article     Summary of ABC Wine column Wine Tasting 
  ABC Wine Issue 34, October 2005   
SardiniaSardinia  Contents 
Issue 33, September 2005 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 35, November 2005

Sardinia

In the suggestive Italian island, keeper of millenary traditions and cultures, wine has always represented an important resource, an ancient history which is capable of surprising even today

 Sardinia certainly is one of the most charming places of Italy, not only for the natural wonders found in this island, but also for its very ancient and rich traditions; an indissoluble heritage from culture, from places and from people who live here. Rich traditions and cultures which are also found in the ancient heritage of cooking, made of the many traditions which are found in the many areas and places of Sardinia, including wine, which in this land represents an important element of identity and history. From white wines to reds, an enological path also passing in the other styles and, among them, authentic rarities, extraordinary representatives of the island's wine making, such as Malvasia di Bosa and Vernaccia di Oristano. Two wonderful examples of wines with an extraordinary ancient taste, which give their best with very long times of aging.

 Sardinia has worth representatives in other wines as well - or better to say - in other grapes too. Vermentino is the most renowned white berried grape of the island and from which are being produced - in the whole territory of the region - excellent wines. Cannonau is still the most famous red berried grape of the island, even though since many years other red grapes are getting more and more famous thanks to the excellent results they produced in wine making: Carignan and Bovale. The richness of grapes in Sardinia goes beyond the ones already mentioned and which represent the most famous ones outside the region. In fact, Sardinia has a pretty interesting heritage of autochthonous grapes and, despite many of them have been introduced by Spaniards, after centuries of adaptation in the territory, today are being considered among the typical grapes of the region. Of course, here are also found the so called international grapes which are usually added to local varieties, as well as typical grapes from other Italian regions, such as Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, Montepulciano and Barbera.


Sardinia
Sardinia

 According to archaeological studies and researches, vine and wine are present in Sardinia since about 5,000 years. In fact, are dated back to this era the first findings of amphoras and cups in the area occupied by Nuraghi, the ancient people who lived in the island. Despite the age of these archaeological findings, it is believed vine was introduced in Sardinia by Phoenicians, during the period in which they occupied the island. In fact, it is believed the introduction of the vitis vinifera occurred in the seventeenth century b.C., in particular in the colonies of Tharros, Othoca, Cornus, Bithia, Karalis and Noca, all being situated in the western coast. Another important archaeological discovery - dated back to the fourth century b.C., in Roman times - witnesses the historical importance of the wine in the island. In 1984, near the Nuraghe Arrubiu di Orrioli - in the province of Nuoro - has been found a “wine making laboratory” with vessels and tanks for the fermentation and aging of wine. In the course of the diggings were also found some grape pips belonging to unidentifiable varieties.

 Because of the strategic geographical position of the island in the Mediterranean, Sardinia has been - in the course of the centuries - subject to conquests by Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Arabs, Aragonese, Genovese, Pisans and - finally - by Sabaudi. Because of the influence of the people who dominated the island, viticulture and wine making has been strongly affected by the traditions and cultures of the many people, while living alternates periods of decay and of truly splendor. Among the people who mainly contributed to the development of enology in the island, are remembered the ones coming from the Aegean sea and from the Iberian peninsula. In fact, these people introduced new and fundamental viticultural and enological techniques, as well as the introduction of new grape varieties, still today found in Sardinia where they play an important role. Many of the famous grapes of Sardinia - such as Cannonau and Carignan - have been introduced by Spaniards, however the quantity of autochthonous grapes is pretty interesting and capable of making very good wines.


 

 A fundamental event for the viticulture of Sardinia - as well as for its agriculture - was represented by the promulgation of Carta De Logu. It was in 1392 Eleonora di Arborea - by continuing the job done by her father Mariano IV - promulgated this important document which regulated the viticulture and agriculture until 1827. Carta De Logu had in its goals, the purpose of increasing, safeguarding and incentivizing the cultivation of the vine and the production of wine. Moreover, there were also emanated heavy fines and corporal penalties to anyone not obeying to Carta De Logu's laws, which also provided the cut of the hand to anyone who fired vineyards or furtively uprooted vineyards. To the ones who did not plant vineyards in their lands, they were confiscated and given to others capable of working them. At the end of feudal times, rural property was abolished and many lands were therefore destined to pastures, then, in 1736 - thanks to marquis of Rivarolo - Carta De Logu was reintroduced again, therefore contributing to the development of viticulture in Sardinia.

 It was in this period wines of Sardinia began to become popular outside the borders of the region, in particular Cannonau produced in the areas near Nuoro, Vermentino di Gallura, Vernaccia di Oristano, Malvasia di Bosa, Monica passito (sweet), Girò, Moscato and Nasco. The development of wine making in Sardinia - here as it was everywhere else - was stopped with the arrive of phylloxera: only the vineyards planted in sandy soils could be saved. It was just in the beginning of the 1950's viticulture in Sardinia could resume its development thanks to the establishment of countless cooperative wineries. In this period the production was mainly attracted by quantity instead of quality, in particular for colored and concentrated red wines, with high alcohol volume, frequently used for strengthening other wines. With the introduction of quality production - which requires low yields in vineyards - many of cooperative and private wineries of Sardinia ended their business. This event - here as well as in other Italian regions - has allowed wines of Sardinia to reach the current remarkable quality levels, including the historical and typical wines of the island produced with autochthonous grapes.

 

Classification of Sardinia

 Wines of Sardinia are classified according to the quality system in force in Italy. In Sardinia are currently defined 19 DOC areas (Denominazione d'Origine Controllata, Denomination of Controlled Origin) and one DOCG (Denominazione d'Origine Controllata e Garantita, Denomination of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin), recognized to Vermentino di Gallura. The production of Sardinia is pretty vast and interesting: besides white and red wines, in the island are also produced excellent sweet wines as well as a wine with an ancient and complex taste: Vernaccia di Oristano, which would certainly deserve a better attention. The 19 DOC ares of Sardinia are: Alghero, Arborea, Campidano di Terralba, Cannonau di Sardegna, Carignano del Sulcis, Girò di Cagliari, Malvasia di Bosa, Malvasia di Cagliari, Mandrolisai, Monica di Cagliari, Monica di Sardegna, Moscato di Cagliari, Moscato di Sardegna, Moscato di Sorso-Sennori, Nasco di Cagliari, Nuragus di Cagliari, Semidano di Sardegna, Vermentino di Sardegna and Vernaccia di Oristano. In Sardinia - just like in other regions of Italy - the production of IGT wines (Indicazione Geografica Tipica, Typical Geographical Indication), is very rich and interesting, in which autochthonous grapes are frequently used with the so called international varieties.

 

Production Areas

 In Sardinia the vine is cultivated in the whole territory of the region and many DOC wines are being produced in the entire territory of the island. Sardinia has a pretty rich heritage of autochthonous grapes and the ones introduced in the past centuries by the people who controlled its dominion, are now considered as local grapes. In the island is also recorded a presence of international grapes generally used in the production of wines and added to the local varieties. Despite in the whole region are being produced different wine styles, in Sardinia is found a sort of territorial division in the preference of production for specific styles. Whereas in the central and northern parts there is a higher production of white wines, the production of red wines is mainly concentrated in the southern part of the island. The main white berried grapes of Sardinia are: Malvasia Bianca, Malvasia di Sardegna, Nasco, Nuragus, Semidano, Torbato, Vermentino and Vernaccia di Oristano. As for red grapes, here are mentioned the main ones: Bovale, Caddiu, Cagnulari, Cannonau, Carignano, Girò, Monica and Nieddera.

 

Vermentino di Gallura

 The white berried grape with which are produced the most famous wines of Sardinia certainly is Vermentino. Despite this grape makes very good wines in the whole territory of the island, Gallura - the territory found in the northern part of the region - is the most classic and representative area. Vermentino di Gallura - the only DOCG wine of Sardinia - is extremely interesting, in particular the superior style, which, according to the disciplinary, it must have at least 13,5% of alcohol by volume. The main characteristic of this wine, of average structure, is represented by its evident aromas and flavors of almond. According to historical facts, Vermentino arrived in Gallura after 1850, probably coming from France after having passed Corse, the island where it is still cultivated. In Gallura Vermentino is the most cultivated grape and represents about 80% of total production, whereas the rest is represented by Muscat Blanc, Bovale, Caricagiola and Nebbiolo, the renowned grape from Langhe, Piedmont, here used for the production of interesting IGT wines.

 

Cannonau di Sardegna

 The most famous red berried grape of Sardinia - as well as the most cultivated one in the region - is Cannonau. Despite historians agree on the fact Cannonau was introduced in Sardinia during the dominion of Spaniards, it is not clear what is the original variety to which it belongs to. In fact, it is believed Cannonau is pretty similar to Canonazo - common in the area of Seville - as well as to Granaxo of Aragon and, finally - being the most common hypothesis - similar to Grenache Noir. Cannonau is cultivated in the whole region, however the most typical area is in the province of Nuoro, where are found three of the four Cannonau di Sardegna sub areas: Oliena, Nepente di Oliena and Jerzu. The fourth sub area - Capo Ferrato - is located in the southern part of the island in the province of Cagliari. Cannonau makes wines - in particular the ones of the Oliena area - with high alcohol volumes and robust structures, however the introduction of modern technologies allows today the production of excellent and very balanced Cannonau wines. Because of its low acidity, Cannonau is also vinified together with other grapes, usually autochthonous, in order to improve the gustatory balance.

 

Vernaccia di Oristano

 Vernaccia di Oristano is one of the most suggestive wines of Sardinia and which would certainly deserve a better attention and consideration by consumers. Vernaccia di Oristano is also one of the most ancient wines of Sardinia - the first historical information are dated back to the 1300's - and it is also the first wine of the region to which was recognized the DOC status, in 1972. The wine is produced with the homonymous white grape, which is probably autochthonous of Sardinia. Despite Vernaccia di Oristano is legitimately considered a white wine, its production is pretty different from the wine making techniques used for these wines. Vinification and aging are still done according to ancient traditional methods, a process which frequently makes Vernaccia di Oristano to be considered similar to Spanish Jerez (Sherry), indeed it has its own and precise identity. The aging of Vernaccia di Oristano is done in partially filled chestnut cask, in which develop a colony of yeast (flor) which will give the wine - after tens of years - complex and unique organoleptic qualities. Time represents the main secret for this wine, as it improves as years passes by and with proper aging it can express extraordinary aromas of almond, hazelnut and its typical rancho aroma.

 

Other Areas

 Besides the grapes and wines already mentioned, there must also be cited other typical varieties of Sardinia and from which are being produced interesting wines. One of the most interesting is the famous Malvasia di Bosa, produced in limited quantities, with a sweet taste and that with time improves by increasing its complexity and charm. As for sweet wines, there should be mentioned Moscato di Cagliari, Moscato di Sardegna and Moscato di Sorso-Sennori. Among white berried grapes should be mentioned Nuragus which, after having been the main grape of the island in terms of quantity, today - thanks to the modern wine making techniques - it is capable of producing good quality wines, different from the ones of the past, considered “rustic” and modest. For the Alghero area are mentioned the wines produced with Torbato grape - of Spanish origin - both whites and sparkling. Among red berried grapes, are mentioned the excellent results obtained in the last years with Carignan grape: elegant full bodied wines which reached the top of Sardinia's enology. Other interesting red grapes of Sardinia used for the production of wines include Monica, Cagnulari, Nieddera and Bovale, frequently used together with Cannonau and Carignan.

 




 Editorial  Share this article     Summary of ABC Wine column Wine Tasting 
  ABC Wine Issue 34, October 2005   
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