- Q & A
Italy - Sardinia
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 especially its only DOCG wine, Vermentino di Gallura.
Much of Sardinia's production is carried out by cooperatives. Among 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.
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 Spanish renditions. Cannonau is a rather large and imposing wine with incredible depth and flavor similar to California Cabernet Sauvignon. The Monica has similar flavors, but is not as big a wine.
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.
One of 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.