Where it is grown: Cannonau is the most widespread black-grape vine in Sardinia and certainly the best known outside the island. It is grown throughout the regional territory, although it is primarily concentrated in the central areas of the island, in particular in the Nuoro and Ogliastra areas. Cannonau today covers thirty percent of the wine-growing area of Sardinia, for a total of about 7600 hectares overall, with over 70% concentrated in the province of Nuoro.
A little bit of history: For a long time, it was thought that Cannonau originated from the Iberian peninsula, from where it was imported. However, some important archaeological findings have called history into question; during the Borore excavations at the Duos Nuraghes archaeological site, hundreds of grape seeds from vines dating back to 1200 BC were found, confirming that Nuragic populations grew vines and produced wine: a forefather of the present day Cannonau?
Available on the market: The DOC (recognised in 1972) presently covers a “classic” area and denotes the three subareas of Jerzu, Oliena (or Nepente di Oliena) and Capo Ferrato.
Recognisable features: It is characterised by finesse of taste and bouquet, which vary from one production zone to another. It has a good structure and taste-aroma sensations that recall flowers or fresh red fruits, veering towards mature hints and warmer, spicy fortified or dessert wine hints.
Food pairings: Goes well with rich and structured Sardinian dishes such as roasted meats, stews, sapid and mature cured meats and cheeses.
Where it is grown: Carignano is a red-grape vine grown prevalently in the area of Sulcis, in south-west Sardinia. Its area of cultivation represents just 7% of the region’s total, but in spite of its limited spread, Carignano is undoubtedly one of the most interesting wines of Sardinian oenology. The vine has a strong resistance to sea winds, which has enabled it to take root and grow on the sandy, sundrenched ground of Sulcis.
A little bit of history: It is thought that it may have been introduced to the island by the Phoenicians through the ancient port of Solky, whose ruins are still visible on the island of Sant’Antioco. This belief is perhaps upheld by the presence of this vine in other regions of the Mediterranean as well where there were Phoenician settlements, such as Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria. A second supposition links its introduction to the Aragonese period, in consideration of the fact that the vine is also named with the dialect name of Axina de Spagna. Carignano is also present in Spain and France.
Available on the market: In Sardinia it is used for vinification and production of the DOC Carignano del Sulcis (recognized in 1977) and various Designations of Origin.
Recognisable features: The wine is a long-lasting wine, with an intense, brilliant ruby colour, featuring warm, enveloping aromas and slightly herbaceous hints. The taste is dry, sapid, full and persistent.
Food pairings: goes extremely well with red meat roasts, game stew, sapid and aromatic long-aged cheeses.
Where it is grown: Sardinia is the elect land for this vine which, together with Cannonau, represents the most typical expression of regional production. Vermentino is grown all over Sardinia, covering an overall area of about 4200 hectares. Its presence in territories characterized by different environments and cultivation techniques means that the wines produced by the Vermentino grape feature strong, individual personalities, an expression of the different production areas.
A little bit of history: Some believe it originated from the Iberian Peninsula, others in the area of Luni, between Liguria and Tuscany. It would then have spread into France and from there into Corsica. From here, in the 18th century, it would have reached Gallura, to find its chosen land. Presently, this vine today is spread over various areas of Italy, in particular Liguria and Tuscany.
Available on the market: Vermentino is used for the production of the DOCG Vermentino di Gallura wines (established in 1996) and DOC wines Vermentino di Sardegna, Alghero Vermentino Frizzante and Cagliari Vermentino (awarded respectively in 1988, 1995 and 2011).
Recognisable features: Vermentino-based wines feature a straw-yellow colour with gold reflections and intense floral bouquets, which recall broom and aromatic herbs.
Food pairings: To be paired with fish dishes such as seafood pasta, soups, risotto and oven-baked fish. Also great with meat, shellfish, mixed grill and grilled small fish antipasti.
Where it is grown: Vernaccia is a vine variety of very ancient origin. Its cultivation is limited almost exclusively to the province of Oristano, where particular vinification and refinement techniques make it a wine of great complexity and longevity. The oak or chestnut casks in which it is kept are left less than full, so that the presence of oxygen favours the development of particular yeasts during maturing, able to form a characteristic film called “flor” (flower), which contributes to developing the typical bouquet of the wine.
A little bit of history: Important archaeological finds from Tharros (near modern-day Cabras, Oristano) lead us to believe that it was already cultivated in the Phoenician period. Some believe that it is actually a native vine, given that its name is derived from the Latin vernaculus, domestic, and therefore indicates a grape typical of the place. This would also explain the presence of other “vernaccias”, quite unlike the Sardinian type, in various wine-growing areas of Italy.
Available on the market: In addition to the DOC Vernaccia di Oristano, the first Designation awarded in Sardinia in 1971, this typical grape also yields a young white wine which is marketed as IGT “Valle del Tirso”.
Recognisable features: Vernaccia di Oristano appears in the dry version, not fortified (used also as a table wine), or in the dessert version. It is a dark yellow or amber coloured wine, especially for versions that have undergone a long ageing process, and its olfactory profile is very complex and rich, dominated by hints of bitter almond and enriched by tastes of candied fruit, honey and vanilla.
Food pairings: Goes well with all traditional Sardinian almond-based sweets but is also excellent on its own.
Where it is grown: Known locally using its synonym “Muristellu”, Sardinian Bovale definitely originates from the territory where it is found. It can be found in almost all the wine-growing areas in Sardinia however its best enological expression is found in the area of Mandrolisai, in Nuoro.
A little bit of history: The term “Bovale” is associated with two vine varieties: Sardinian Bovale and Spanish Bovale, also known as Bovale grande, which quite differently from the aforementioned arrived in Sardinia from the Iberian peninsula in 1300. The two Bovali have a significant varietal difference, as confirmed by recent scientific findings supported with genetic analysis.
Available on the market: Where combined with Monica and Cannonau grapes, Sardinian Bovale is classified as DOC Mandrolisai; where combined with the Bovale grande grape blend, as DOC Campidano di Terralba or Terralba.
Recognisable features: Ruby red colour, with light garnet-coloured shades, hints of ripe fruit and jam. In the mouth, it is possible to perceive soft tannins and a pleasant taste of alcohol.
Food pairings: Perfect with slow-cooker sauce-based dishes, roasted or stewed meats, aged cured meats and cheeses.
Where it is grown: Amongst the green grape vineyards of Sardinia, over the past few years, Nuragus has seen a significant reduction of its cultivated surface area. The grape is primarily found in the area between the former province of Cagliari and Oristano, with a wine-growing surface area of approximately 2,000 hectares.
A little bit of history: Nuragus is one of the oldest wine varieties in Sardinia, brought to the country by Phoenician navigators, who founded the ancient city of Nora, the ruins of which can be found in the south-west of Cagliari. The way it adapts to all types of terrain and its abundant production made it popular throughout the entire 20th Century.
Available on the market: The Nuragus of Cagliari Controlled Designation of Origin was recognised in 1975.
Recognisable features: Straw-yellow colour, with light greenish shades, white flower, green apple and citrus fruit, sapid aromas which are pleasantly fresh on the palate.
Food pairings: Perfect with fresh cheeses aged for short periods, antipasti, soups and fish-based starters.
Where it is grown: in the areas of Bosa and Cagliari.
A little bit of history: The name Malvasia refers back to the Greek port of “Monemvasia” in the Peloponnese. Confirming the likely Greek origin, the dialectal synonym “Alvarega”, “white Greek” is used on the Island, In around 1400, wine arrived to Italy and the vine variety began to be cultivated; for this reason, Malvasie each with very different characteristics can be found across diverse Italian wine-growing areas. In Sardinia, the Malvasia vine variety was introduced as far back as the Byzantine period to then spread across the hills of Planargia and Campidano di Cagliari.
Available on the market: Two DOC wines are produced from this vine variety each with different characteristics: Malvasia di Bosa and Cagliari Malvasia.
Recognisable features: A yellow-gold, bright colour, with delicately sweet and aromatic aromas, along with a pleasant and elegant softness on the palate. With the demi sec spumante version, it is possible to identify scents, aromas, vivacity and freshness on the palate.
Food pairings: Goes well with traditional sweets, particularly almond-paste, candied and dried fruit sweets.
Where it is grown: Very popular vine variety in Sardinia: primarily found in the hills of Romangia, with good exposure to the sun and sea winds, in the hinterland of the Gulf of Cagliari, across calcareous and sunny ground, and in Gallura on the granite substratums, perfect for the production of the Moscato spumante variety.
A little bit of history: The vine variety has extremely ancient origins, with its presence been documented as far back as the Roman period during which it was named vitis apiana, seeing as though the grapes were popular with bees owing to their sweetness. The vine variety can be found across almost all wine-growing areas of the Mediterranean.
Available on the market: Sardinia has three different Moscato based DOC, which each are representative and originate from specific production areas: : Cagliari Moscato, Moscato di Sorso-Sennori and Moscato di Sardegna in the white, passito, using overripe grapes and Spumante types, with the traditional geographical indication of “Tempio Pausania” or “Gallura”.
Recognisable features: Bright, shiny golden, amber shades with floral aromas of rose, candied fruits, caramelised almonds, raisins, dried figs and apricot jam.
Food pairings: Goes well with traditional sweets and candied citrus fruits, such as aranzada and citrus lemon, but also with gattò di zucchero and almonds, cream sweats and fruit tarts.