Emerging from the Shadows
The preeminent and most prolific red grape on the island is Cannonau, a clone of Garnacha (Grenache) brought from Seville in Spain. Cannonau di Sardegna is a full-throttled, wood-aged powerhouse once characterized as dinamite Sarda, or “Sardinian dynamite.” Paired with lamb stew, pasta or spit-roasted pig by the natives, it ranks alongside many of Italy’s elite reds.
Vermentino di Sardegna is the premier white wine export. Like some of the island’s other wine grapes, Vermentino is of Spanish origin. (Spain colonized part of the island in the 13th century, and Sardinia didn’t actually become part of Italy until 1726.) Vermentino produced in Sardinia is less acidic than the wine produced from the same grape in Liguria, both east and west of Genoa. Light, crisp and easy-drinking, it is a perfect accompaniment to fish dishes.
Monica di Sardegna, also produced from a grape variety of Spanish origin, is one of the main Sardinian red wines exported to the U.S. Except in the superiore version, it sees no wood and is designed to be enjoyed while young. It is soft and light-bodied for a wine from a warm climate. Locals drink it with a meal of Favata, a stew made with pork and fava beans.
Carignano del Sulcis, yet another wine with a Spanish heritage, comes from the southwest part of the island. This variety is also found in France and California, where it is called Carignan(e). Rescued from the destiny of a blending grape through revamped viticultural and vinicultural techniques, it creates a red, grapey, full-bodied wine that can offer some complexity at the riserva level or when produced from old vines.
Whatever variety you choose, selecting a Sardinian wine for dinner won’t require securing a loan to finance your purchase. While Italy’s most prestigious regions now command fast-lane prices, excellent yet economical wines still abound on the country roads of the less-traveled territories.