An artisanal wine adventure in Sardinia

Love at first sight!

6 DECEMBER 2016,
A Cannonau of Gallura vineyard
A Cannonau of Gallura vineyard

Over the summer we spent a couple of weeks in the charming Island of Sardinia. The island is famous for having raw and strong flavours, often associated with the harshness of the landscape. Although we were located in the Costa Smeralda area, the island’s most exclusive part where all the rich and VIP come to spend their money, we were ready to travel far to taste the real Sardinia. The island, just like many Italian regions, has been making wines for centuries but it is only in the last 10 to 15 years that the quality of the wines has significantly picked up. The grapes: Cannonau (Grenache) and Vermentino are the stars of the Island. The first is harvested pretty much all over the region while the second, Vermentino, gives its best interpretations in the Gallura area, very close to the glamorous Costa Smeralda.

Two out of the twelve days that we were in Sardinia, the weather was quite miserable: the perfect excuse to “artisanal wine hunt”. For the first producer, we headed west to Romangia, a costal area with a similar landscape to Gallura. It is a particularly good area for fine wine making. Here the Dettori family have been making wine for generations but its only in the last 15 years that they started bottling. We decided to enjoy a meal in their beautiful estate with great views over his vineyards facing the sea. The food was delicious but it was the wine that stole the show. Powerful reds that see no oak that come from very old vines (up to 100 year old!), ageing in large concrete tanks, for wines that are incredibly bold and expressive. Their 3 Cannonau are literally bombs that attack your palate with an average of 16% alcohol. A few glasses of this intense juice and you are set for the evening. Yet the wine that impressed me the most was Chimbanta, made from an indigenous grape called Monica. A lovely bouquet of red fruit and spice, with the intensity typical of all the Dettori wines, earthy yet femininely seductive at the same time. A love at first sight!

For our second minitrip we headed south to the Barbagia area. As mentioned before, Cannonau is planted all over the region but “connoisseurs” say that the Mamoiada area is where this wine reaches its highest peaks. A good 2 and half hour drive that takes you through a completely different part of the island. A jungle like feel meets Tuscany, absolutely stunning! What makes Mamoiada so special though for wine production is its high altitude and complex soil composition. Here a minuscule producer called Giovanni Montisci has been making wine since 2004. We arrived around 11.30 thinking that we would stay there for approximately 1 hour… and we were so wrong!

Giovanni welcomes us with a big smile on his face and takes us to his house/cellar/garage, everything hear is homemade. Production is minimal, around 6000 bottles. Giovanni is a firm believer of maximum respect for nature, in fact he uses horses in the vineyards to reduce the stress on the vineyard and everything is done in the most natural way possible. The result are wines with incredible complexity and poise. I just could not believe that his Cannonau had 16% alcohol, and it was so smooth and elegant: you can definitely feel the altitude giving a refreshing lift to his powerful wines. But what made this experience unforgettable was Giovanni himself, a true character. Opinionated, loud and genuine, exactly the producer that I get excited about! The name of the wine Barrosu, comes from the local dialect and it means someone that thinks he is the best and was given by a friend of Giovanni as he always thought his Cannonau was the finest. It is nearly impossible to disagree with him! He is not just an incredible wine producer but also a phenomenal ham maverick. His hand cut prosciutto, was probably the best I have ever had; a mix between a Pata Negra and a Culatello. I desperately tried to buy one as I never came across something so divine but there was no way he was going to give me one. He reserves his prosciutto for his friends and loved ones. I guess at my next visit I will need to fight for it more!