Where it’s cultivated: Vernaccia is a very old vine. Its cultivation is almost exclusively limited to the Province of Oristano, where special wine-making and ageing techniques make it a wine of great complexity and longevity. The durmast or chestnut casks it is stored in aren’t filled to the brim so that the oxygen favours the development of particular yeasts during maturation, able to form a typical layer known as ‘flor’, which contributes to the traditional aroma of the wine.
Some history: Important archaeological finds from Tharros (near the modern
Cabras, Oristano) indicate that the vine was presumably cultivated in Phoenician times. Some consider that it’s a native vine as its name derives from Latin vernaculus, domestic, and so indicates a typical local grape. This would also
explain the other ‘vernacce’, quite unlike the Sardinian one, in various Italian wine-producing areas.
On the market: In addition to the Vernaccia di Oristano DOC, the first Designation
recognised in Sardinia in 1971, a young white wine, marketed as IGT ‘Valle del Tirso’ is also obtained from this typical vine.
How to recognise it: Vernaccia di Oristano is available in a dry version, not strengthened (when young, it is used as a table wine), or a sweet, liqueur-like version. Its colour is an intense yellow or amber, especially in the versions aged for a long time, and it has a very complex, rich profile to the nose, dominated by bitter almond notes and enriched by hints of candied fruit, honey and vanilla.
Kitchen combinations: It combines well with all almond-based desserts and cakes in Sardinian tradition but can also surprise on its own.