Mostly for reasons of economics, over time much of the wine production in Sardinia has agglomerated under the populist aegis of a generous few cooperative wineries, and a some very large private behemoths as well. A good amount of these big guys produce good wine (despite the stigmatized perception that still haunts co-ops and big wineries), and from a few that carefully limit their scope, stuff gets made that borders on great…
That said, the wine made by small, private concerns on this complex and mysterious island, in my opinion, best captures this truly unique dollop of earth that stands bang in the middle of the Mediterranean. This is a place that has an indigenous culture so ancient that it thus far has defied complete understanding – people whose ancestors preceded the Romans, the Carthagenians, and the Phoenicians (and lots of others too), all of whom invaded, and helped to shape this island’s culture.
Even Sardinia’s signature red grape Cannonau, which is none other than Garnacha, AKA Grenache, AKA several other names, is claimed by the proud Sardi as their own (the common wisdom has that it’s from Spain, probably Aragon) and I’ve heard some pretty convincing arguments made that medieval Catalan traders found the grape there, and shipped clippings back to Spain early on, but the debate rages on as they say…
Whatever Cannonau’s true roots (all grapes come originally from Georgia after all…) this variety, grown in dusty and sunny but still maritime Sardinia behaves very differently from its kin in Spain, or France, or mainland Italy, with a dense core and wiry spine that compliments a clarity that all other “Garnachas”, etc. don’t possess.
In keeping with the usual regional theme, I cooked a first course of spaghetti with a sauce of oil, garlic, lots of anchovies, pounded fresh oregano, minced parsley, and a big handful of grated pecorino cheese, all frothed up with a little pasta water, and then lamb, egg, bread crumb, garlic, onion, mint, patties pan-fried in a little olive oil with a side of chick peas simmered with tomato, onion, saffron, and spiced with red pepper flakes
Vigne Deriu Cannonau di Sardegna 2009
Deep, slightly cloudy, brownish purple color. Heady nose of preserved cherries, wet clay, wood smoke, plum butter, blueberries, fall leaves, and sea spray. The structure of the wine is big, stiff, solid, and chunky, with a satiny texture, that plays host to flavors of myrtle berries, porcini mushrooms, melting dark chocolate, mixed spice, and a savory, meaty quality. Long, dry, bitter-sweet finish with vintage porty notes. A rustic, place-driven, but still clean wine.