Viticulture in Sardinia has been in existence since pre-Roman times, a tradition that began with the people of the Nuraghi and continues into the third millennium. From the Romans to the late Sardinian-Piedmontese Kingdom, through the Tuscan and Genovese fiefdoms (Benedictine or Camaldolean monks), and the Spaniards, all contributed to the islands wine traditions. The panorama reminds you of the remote and unique origins of this Mediterranean island - and the most ancient of Italy.
The wines of Sardinia (situated 240km off the coast, the 2nd largest island in the Med.) - have little in common with wines produced on the main land, resulting in wines with a unique character, described as having more in common with Spanish than Italian wines.
Sardinia’s white wine industry is characterised by grapes that are seldom seen in other parts of Italy, like Nuragus, as well as clones of classic Mediterranean varietals like Moscato and Malvasia. Nuragus is a grape of historical significance - it is thought that the Phoenicians brought the grape to the island, which takes its name from Nuraghe, the ancient stone towers that have come to symbolise the island. The crisp wines made from Nuragus are locally popular, wines made from Vermentino, often bottled as Vermentino di Sardegna DOC, have more commercial appeal. Vermentino is now widely planted, making clean, fresh wines, such as dry Vermentino di Gallura, Sardinia’s sole DOCG appellation.
Recently Sardinia’s wine producers have been reducing yields in order to focus on quality rather than quantity - and now in addition to the single DOCG, there are 19 DOC appellations and 15 IGTs, which is more than any other region in Italy.
Production is extensive around the port of Cagliari in the Campidano area, where the little known Girò, Monica, Nasco and Nuragus varietals grow alongside Malvasia and Moscato, all bearing the town name in the Girò di Cagliari, Monica di Cagliari, Nasco di Cagliari, Nuragus di Cagliari, Malvasia di Cagliari and Moscato di Cagliari DOCs. Moscato wines are sweet and often sparkling, while Malvasia may be dry or sweet. The best examples tend to be dry wines made around Cagliari, as well as those from the Planargia hills and the town of Bosa, which boast its own Malvasia di Bosa DOC.
Sardinia’s most unique wine is the amber-coloured Vernaccia di Oristano, made around the area of the Tirso River in a method similar to Fino Sherry production. The wine is aged in barrels where the yeast ‘flora’ forms on its surface, flavouring the wine richly. A fine sweet white is often bottled under Sardinia Semidano DOC, although the most prized wines are made around the town of Mogoro.
Many of Sardinia’s red wines show a Spanish influence - Cannonau is an important varietal, a grape that is related to Spain’s Garnacha. Cannonau, as well as Monica, another grape of Spanish origin, are used to make both dry and sweet wines, although winemakers are moving away from the sweet in favour of quality dry wines. Similarly the Spanish Carignano grape performs well, with some excellent wines emerging from the DOC of Carignano del Sulcis in the South West.
Cannonau dominates in the eastern coast around Nuoro where strong, concentrated dry reds are made under the appellation Cannonau di Sardegna DOC. Aged for at least one year in oak barrels, or at least two years for reserve wines, some fine examples come from Oliena, Jerzu and Capo Ferrato. A Port-like sweet wine is also made, indicated by the term ‘liquoroso’ on the label and reaching 17.5% alcohol.
Sardinia DOCG wine appellation:
Vermentino di Gallura or Sardegna Vermentino di Gallura.
Sardinia DOC wine appellations:
Alghero or Sardegna Alghero, Arborea or Sardegna Arborea, Campidano di Terralba or Terralba or Sardegna Campidano di Terralba or Sardegna Terralba, Cannonau di Sardegna, Carignano del Sulcis or Sardegna Carignano del Sulcis, Girò di Cagliari or Sardegna Girò di Cagliari, Malvasia di Bosa or Sardegna Malvasia di Bosa, Malvasia di Cagliari or Sardegna Malvasia di Cagliari, Mandrolisai or Sardegna Mandrolisai, Monica di Cagliari or Sardegna Monica di Cagliari, Monica di Sardegna, Moscato di Cagliari or Sardegna Moscato di Cagliari, Moscato di Sardegna, Moscato di Sorso-Sennori or Moscato di Sorso or Moscato di Sennori or Sardegna, Nasco di Cagliari or Sardegna Nasco di Cagliari, Nuragus di Cagliari or Sardegna Nuragus di Cagliari, Sardegna Semidano, Vermentino di Sardegna, Vernaccia di Oristano or Sardegna Vernaccia di Oristano.
Sardinia IGT wine appellations:
Barbagia, Colli del Limbara, Isola dei Nuraghi, Marmilla, Nurra, Ogliastra, Parteolla, Planargia, Provincia di Nuoro, Romangia, Sibiola, Tharros, Trexenta, Valle del Tirso, Valli di Porto Pino