There’s something about Italy that captivates me. From sun-drenched shorelines to exotic history, I am an unabashed Italy buff. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Italian gastronomy and wine are out of this world. I dream of a time when I can sample wonderlands, like the focus of today’s post — Sardinia —unbothered and unhurried, delighting in her wonderful food, wine and vistas. Before I digress into my daydream, come along with me.
The larger of the two northern Italian islands, just south of Corsica, Sardinia has a long, colorful history, which relates to our first featured white wine, Nuragus. Many thousands of years ago, an ancient people, the Nuraghe settled on Sardinia, to take advantage of its great sea-trading location, beautiful weather, copper and lead ore, native to the island. According to Fringe Wine, before they conquered the Nuraghe, Phoenicians were big traders with them, even importing grapes to the island, according to ampelographers. Today’s Nuragus wine is only grown on Sardinia’s southern end, and is named after these very early inhabitants.
Nuragus is known for its plentiful yield, acidity and ability to grow in Sardinia’s generally hot climate. It is basically only found near the southern town of Cagliari, and seems to have further cultivation restrictions. While some websites claim that it is the wine growers who restrict themselves to growing Nuragus at 600 meters or lower on their mountainous terrain, other sites claim Italian regulations. I tend to believe the latter, given how ubiquitous Italian wine laws are.
Overall tasting reports on Nuragus range widely as to whether this is considered a good, fair or non-event wine. What is common to the reviews I read (because Nuragus is hard to find here in America), is that it doesn’t age well, is better served warmer than chilled, and has a fruity nose of apples and pears with a bitter almond finish. Perhaps because it is a delicate wine, it pairs successfully with diverse dishes ranging from pungent cheeses to fish and shellfish pasta.
Fast forward several centuries, and you have Sardinia’s Aragon period, when the Spanish dominated the island. They also brought a little piece of home with them in the form of Carignano (also known as Carignan), a hardy, high-yielding red. The Carignano vines found on Sardinia are well over 100 years old, with gnarly stems and tough branches that make manual harvesting preferred.
This little red workhorse wine was predominantly used as a blend in red wines, due to its high tannins and acidity. Lately, however, perhaps thanks to improved wine-production methods, it can be found as a stand-alone varietal in Carignano del Sulcis, produced west of Cagliari in the coastal area of Sulcis. Sardinian Carignano is especially spicy and rich, as it tends to thrive in the heat where it is more protected from the many pests to which it is susceptible. This wine is a great accompaniment to your typical Mediterranean diet: goat, lamb, pasta, veggies and sharp cheeses.
If you’ve had the opportunity to try Nuragus or Carignano, please share your experiences with us. If you’d like to read some of my other posts on Italian wine, please visit the Italian wine section of my blog.