Italian Wine Regions - Quattrocalici
Table of Contents for the Sardinia Region
The Sardinia Wine Region
Main Article Contents
- 1 Sardinia and wine
- 2 The wine-growing territory of Sardinia
- 3 The history of viticulture in Sardinia
- 4 The grape varieties of Sardinia
- 5 The wine production areas in Sardinia
- 6 The Appellations of Origin for wines in Sardinia
- 7 The Sardinian cuisine
Sardinia and wine
From white to red wines, a perfect wine tour of Sardinia also involves less common types, including among them also the pearls of the region like Malvasia and Vernaccia di Oristano. Vermentino is the most famous white grape of the island and Cannonau among the red grapes, although recently two grape varieties, Carignano and Bovale, are rising to prominence. The wine heritage of Sardinia goes far beyond these examples, representing only the best known varieties outside of the region. In Sardinia there are several other varieties of native grapes, many of these originally introduced by the Spaniards, although after centuries of mutation and adaptation in the territory they can be considered rightly as native grapes of the region. International and typical grapes from other regions of Italy, such as Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, Montepulciano and Barbera often join the local varieties.
The wine-growing territory of Sardinia
Sardinia has about 26,000 hectares of vineyards (2010), of which 13% is located on mountains, 69% on hills and 18% on plain areas. This corresponds to a production of 638,000 Hl/year, of which 56% rosé and red wines and 44% white wines.
The history of viticulture in Sardinia
According to studies and archaeological research, the grape and wine are present in Sardinia since about 5000 years ago. The historians believe that the vine was introduced in Sardinia by the Phoenicians, during the period in which they occupied the island. According to the Roman historian Lucius Junius Moderato Columella there are indeed historical evidence on the existence of the wine already in the city of Tharros, the ancient Punic-Roman center of which vestiges remain today. Because of its strategic geographical position. Sardinia has been over the centuries target for conquest of the Carthaginians, Romans, Arabs, Aragoneses, Genoeses, Pisani and finally the Piedmonteses. Vine growing and production of wine was severely affected by the traditions and cultures of these different peoples, thru several periods of decline and former splendor. The Aragoneses introduced new and fundamental viticultural and winemaking techniques and new varieties of grapes, many of which are still present in Sardinia and they still play an important role. Some of the most known grapes of Sardinia as the Cannonau and Carignano were first introduced by the Spanish. Late in 1700 wines of Sardinia such as Cannonau di Nuoro, Vermentino di Gallura, Vernaccia di Oristano, Malvasia di Bosa, Monica, Girò, Moscato and Nasco began to become known outside the region’s borders. The development of oenology in Sardinia was stopped with the arrival of phylloxera, at the end of 1800, from which only the vines planted in sandy soils survived. Only in the early 1950s, thanks to the presence of countless wineries, the wine-growing recovered in the region, although in this period the production was mostly focused on quantity, mainly of red colored and concentrated wines, with high alcohol content which were often used for blending with other wines outside the region. The focus on quality production, here as in other regions of Italy, allowed finally the wines of Sardinia to reach greater levels of excellence.
The grape varieties of Sardinia
Being an island, Sardinia is particularly rich in native grape varieties. The are alsa international varieties usually used for the production of wines, often assembled to the local ones. Despite throughout the region several types of wines are made, in the central and northern parts of Sardinia there is a concentration in production of white wines, while the production of red wines is more concentrated in the southern part of the island. The main white grape varieties of Sardinia are Malvasia Bianca, Malvasia di Sardegna, Nasco, Nuragus, Semidano, Torbato, Vermentino and Vernaccia di Oristano. The main red grape varieties are Bovale, Caddiu, Cagnulari, Cannonau, Carignano, Girò, Monica and Nieddera. Sapling training maethod is quite common in Sardinia (especially for the Cannonau), but however also the more modern forms as espalier and Guyot are quite diffused.
The wine production areas in Sardinia
The main wine appellations in Sardinia are Vermentino di Gallura DOCG, the Cannonau di Sardegna DOC and the Vernaccia di Oristano DOC.
Vermentino di Gallura
The most famous white wines of Sardinia are produced with Vermentino. This variety produces excellent wines throughout the island, but Gallura, in the northern part of the region, is the most classic and representative area. The Vermentino di Gallura is the only DOCG wine in Sardinia. The main feature of this wine is its almond smell. In Gallura the Vermentino is the most cultivated grapes, being about 80% of the total, while the rest is mainly represented by Muscat Blanc, Bovale, Caricagiola and Nebbiolo, used to produce interesting red IGT wines.
Cannonau di Sardegna
Cannonau is the most famous black berry grape variety of Sardinia. It seems to have been introduced into the island during the rule of the Spaniards, although it is not entirely clear what is the original variety from which it comes. The Cannonau has similarities with the Canonazo from the area of Seville and with the Granaxo of Aragon, although the most common hypothesis connects it to Grenache Noir. The Cannonau is grown throughout the region, although the most typical area is that of Nuoro, where there are two of the three sub-areas of the Cannonau di Sardegna DOC: Oliena and Jerzu. The fourth sub-zone, Capo Ferrato, is located in the province of Cagliari. The Cannonau, especially the one of Oliena, is a wine with high alcohol content and robust structure, although the recent introduction of modern wine making technologies allows to produce excellent and very balanced Cannonau wines. Because of its low acidity Cannonau is often vinified in blends with other grapes, especially native, with the aim of improving the balance and taste of the resulting wines.
Vernaccia di Oristano
Vernaccia di Oristano is one of the most famous and ancient wines of Sardinia. The first historical information concerning it dates back to 1300. It ‘also the first wine of the region to which the DOC was granted, back in 1972. The Vernaccia wine is produced with the grapes from the native vine of Sardinia. The production of this wine is quite different from the normal twine-making techniques for white wines. The vinification, maturation and aging follow old traditional methods, which make this wine similar to Jerez (Sherry) while maintaining its own identity. The maturation of Vernaccia occurs in fact in partially filled chestnut barrels. A colony of yeast (flor) develops above the surface of the wine giving it complexity and unique organoleptic qualities. During the aging, which can last decades, the wine comes to expressing extraordinary aromas of almond, hazelnut and its typical aroma of “rancio“.
The Appellations of Origin for wines in Sardinia
In Sardinia there are currently 19 DOC (Denomination of Controlled Origin) and one DOCG (Denomination of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin), being the Vermentino di Gallura DOCG. The 19 DOC of Sardinia are: Alghero, Arborea, Campidano of Terralba, Cannonau of Sardinia, Carignano of Sulcis, Girò of Cagliari, Malvasia, Malvasia di Cagliari, Mandrolisai, Monica of Cagliari, Monica di Sardegna, Moscato di Cagliari, Moscato di Sardegna, Moscato di Sorso-Sennori, Nasco di Cagliari, Nuragus di Cagliari, Semidano di Sardegna, Vermentino di Sardegna and Vernaccia di Oristano. The only DOCG and the 19 DOC count for the 66% of wine production in Sardinia, while IGP (PGI) appellations, in whose wines native grapes are often blended with internationa varieties, count for 15% of production. In Sardinia there are 15 IGT wine appellations, and 5 DOP (PDO) for food and agricultural products, among which the Fiore Sardo DOP cheese and the Zafferano (Saffron) di Sardegna DOP. There is a single food IGP, the Agnello (Lamb) di Sardegna IGP.
The Sardinian cuisine
The Sardinian cuisine is characterized by its variety, having been enriched in history through contributions and influences from contacts and exchanges between different Mediterranean cultures. It a varied and diversified cuisine, with recipes ranging from roasted meats, bread, cheese, wine, seafood. It originates from farming and pastoral, hunting, fishing and gathering of wild herbs traditions.
Cagliari typical seafood dishes are the Fregula cun còciula (fregula with clams); the còciulas e cotzas a sa schiscionera (clams and mussels cooked in a pan), the Burrida a sa casteddaia (a dish of sea dogfish, vinegar and walnuts), the Cassola, fish soup with shellfish, but also the spaghetti with clams and bottarga and cun arrizzonis Spaghittus, ie spaghetti with sea urchins, served also in variants with artichokes or asparagus. In Sulcis coast cuisine reflects the strong Genoese influences and is heavily based on blue fin tuna and connected products as roe, tuna heart, musciame, buzzonaglia, lattume without forgetting the cascà, a couscous with vegetable semolina. In Oristano area eels are greatly appreciated. Typical of the area is the bottarga (dried mullet eggs under salt) that can be consumed in thin strips seasoned with oil, as well as grated on pasta dishes. The Sa Merca are slices of boiled and salted mullet wrapped in a marsh grass bag, the zibba. In Aghero the Aragoste alla Catalana (lobsters), broiled with tomatoes, celery and onion, accompanied by a sauce made from the head of the lobster with the addition of lemon juice, oil olive oil, salt and pepper. The race in garlic sauce is also a specialty of Alghero is prepared broiling it covered with tomato sauce, vinegar, garlic and parsley. In Gallura and La Maddalena archipelagus, there are the typical octopus salads, while in Olbia dishes based on mussels, clams and mussels.
The meat based recipes
The Sardinian meat cuisine is based on very simple ingredients and changes from area to area. The Sardinian semolina durum wheat brings pasta in various forms. The “favata ” is a dish to be found all over the island, made with dried beans, meat pork, vegetables and wild herbs. As starters, pork or boar hams as those of Villagrande and Talana, accompanied by mushrooms, olives and cheeses, including the Sardinian Pecorino, fresh or seasoned. The sausages and salami of Irgoli are typical starters from the inner areas, as the Frue or frughe, curdled sheep milk. As pasta dishes the Sardinian gnocchi, also called malloreddus, traditionally flavored with saffron or seasoned Campidanese ie with a sauce of sausages. There is also a variant with Casu furriau ie with melted cheese and saffron. The culurgiones are dumplings stuffed with ricotta and mint, or with a potato-based, cheese fresh and mint filling; the macarrones de Busa are a kind of bucatini made with a special elongated iron, while the macarrones furriaos are dumplings seasoned with fresh pecorino, melted with the bran to form a sort of cream. The gallurese soup or suppa cuatta is a dish consisting of Sardinian bread, casizolu, spices and pecorino, all softened with broth and cooked in the oven.
The main courses are not only based on roasted meat, but also based on entrails, boiled, or stewed. The porcieddu (suckling pig) is about 4-5 kg or twenty day olds, slowly cooked on a spit and flavored with myrtle and rosemary. The arrosto of suckling lamb weighs up to 7 kg, the meat is white and soft and the intense flavor is a tradition among the senior people of the island. The wild boar (Sirbone) is traditionally cooked in carraxu (in an underground pit).
The desserts, like other products of the Sardinian cuisine differ greatly from area to area. The best known are the Seadas or Sebadas, discs of thin dough with a fresh pecorino cheese stuffing, fried and covered with melted honey. The formagelle or Casadinas are pasta cakes filled with fresh lemon flavored cheese. The Pardulas are very similar to Casadinas but the filling is made with ricotta, they look as a dome, and are softer than casadinas and covered with powdered or granulated sugar. The Pabassinas are famous throughout the island and are prepared with flour, walnuts, raisins, almonds or hazelnuts.
The ancient Sardinian tradition has created many varieties of bread among which the Carasau in the form of very crispy thin disks, obtained through a double cooking in a wood oven; the Pistoccu is mainly produced in Ogliastra, prepared in the same manner as carasau, but more thick and consistent, to be consumed wet; the Civraxiu or Civargiu is a big size bread from Campidano area and southern Sardinia; the Coccoi a Pitzus is a type of decoratedbread, once produced only in special recurrences, but today always available.