Sardinia, the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea (after Sicily), boasts turquoise waters, white sand beaches, tender fish, plump figs, zesty lemons and harvests some of the most pristine wines in Italy. The island, a mostly unknown destination to foreign tourists, dates back past 6,000 BC with a number of architectural pieces still intact.
Additionally, DNA studies have found that the Cannonau grape (local name for Grenache), which is also found throughout France and Spain, has been traced back to Sardinia from the Venetians, more than 3,000 years ago. Of course, like any grape heritage, the research is up for debate. However, what’s not up for debate, is the island’s uncompromising growing landscape and native hospitality.
- Why Sardinia is Ripe for Grape Production
- Sardinian Wines: Styles & Grape Varieties
- Frequently Asked Questions about Sardinian Wine
Why Sardinia is Ripe for Grape Production
What makes Sardinia a premier destination for wine is the land and growers themselves. Most vineyards in Sardinia are family owned, with vines that reach an average age of 30 to 60 years old (with some extending far beyond this age range as well).
Additionally, clean growing and harvesting is the name of the game on the Island, as the majority of vineyards are cared for without pesticides, resulting in superior quality wines. Growers in Sardinia will proudly tell any visitors or buyers that quality is the primary focus verses quantity – which makes Sardinia’s wines some of the most pure and exclusive wines in the world.
Sardinian Wines: Styles & Grape Varieties
Sardinia is home to Cannonau, Vermentino and Carignano (also known as Cariganan) wines. And while the island has more exotic varietals, these three there are the premier draws. Let’s break down both the white wines of Sardinia as well as Sardinian red wine.
Sardinian Red Wines
This grape produces Red and Rosé wines from the Cannonau grape, and is typically found in three varieties: dry, sweet and fortified (as liquoroso). The Cannonau grape produces dynamic, full-bodied red wines with medium alcohol, light acidity and rich red fruit flavors such as plums and raspberries.
Some varietals also include soft floral and spicy notes. While the Cannonau grape can be produced as a single varietal wine, it is optimal for blending as it tends to add body and fruit without adding tannin.
With its full body and fruity accents, Cannonau pairs beautifully with suckling pig (or roasted pork), eel, figs, olives, pecorino cheese and malloreddus (Sardinian gnocchi).
Reserved exclusively for Red and Rosé wines, Carignano is comprised of the rich flavors of red raspberries and cherries, making it an ideal blending wine. The Carignano grape itself is very waxy, medium-thick and has a deep blue skin, with its flesh being very meaty, juicy and slightly pink. The result of all of these grape characteristics result in a beautifully bright, ruby-purple colored wine.
Just as beautiful as the wine’s color is its fragrance and taste. Hitting the nose, Carignano is classically, “winey” and fruity, with hints of mulberry and the scent of cherries and plums. The full-bodied wine is dry and warm to taste, slightly tannic and ever so full and resolute, and continues mature these characteristics with age.
Combining all of these attributes into one stunning pour of wine makes Carignano arguably one of the most perfect pairings for almost any food. With a balanced flavor profile, Carignano almost acts like an ingredient paired with food – complimenting classic proteins like roast turkey, chicken, lamb and cured meats; and a variety of cheeses like gouda and parmesan; as well as vegetables such as butternut squash, roasted red pepper, garlic, shallot, and more. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a wine that pairs well with such a diverse variety of food, like Carignano.
Monica di Sardegna
Monica di Sardegna is a red wine that is truly representative of the Sardinian winemaking tradition. Made exclusively from the indigenous Monica grape, this wine is known for its unique taste profile, which sets it apart from other Sardinian reds.
One of the distinguishing features of Monica di Sardegna is its lighter body, which makes it a great option for those looking for a red wine that is not too heavy. The wine’s lower tannin content also adds to its approachability and makes it an excellent choice for pairing with a variety of foods.
On the palate, Monica di Sardegna displays a range of fruity flavors that include notes of red berries, cherries, and plums. These flavors are complemented by hints of spice and earthy undertones, which give the wine a well-rounded character and make it a pleasure to drink.
Bovale Sardo is a unique and complex red wine that is made from the Bovale Sardo grape, also known as Bovale Grande or Muristellu. This grape variety is indigenous to Sardinia and is known for producing wines that are rich in color and flavor.
One of the most notable characteristics of Bovale Sardo wines is their deep, dark color. This is due to the thick skins of the Bovale Sardo grapes, which impart a high level of pigmentation to the wine. In terms of flavor, Bovale Sardo wines are known for their notes of red fruits, such as cherries and raspberries, as well as hints of black pepper and leather.
Bovale Sardo wines typically have moderate tannins and good acidity, which gives them a balanced structure that makes them suitable for aging. Over time, these wines develop additional complexity and depth, with flavors evolving to include more subtle notes of spice, earth, and even tobacco.
Cagnulari is a unique and flavorful red wine that is produced exclusively from the Cagnulari grape, an indigenous variety that is mainly found in the northwestern part of Sardinia. This grape is known for producing wines that are full-bodied and rich in flavor, with a distinctive taste profile that sets them apart from other Sardinian reds.
One of the most striking features of Cagnulari wines is their intense ruby color. This is due to the high level of pigmentation in the grape skins, which imparts a deep hue to the wine. In terms of flavor, Cagnulari wines are characterized by their notes of red fruits, such as cherries and strawberries, as well as blackberries and sweet spices.
Cagnulari wines typically have a medium-bodied structure, which makes them a great option for those looking for a red wine that is not too heavy. The wine’s tannin structure is also noteworthy, with moderate tannins that add a pleasant dryness to the finish. The wine’s good acidity further enhances its structure and balance, making it a versatile option that can be paired with a wide range of foods.
White Wines of Sardinia
Vermentino has risen to become Sardinia’s superior white-wine grape. Primarily produced from seaside vineyards, Vermentino displays unique characters that you won’t find from warmer, inland varietals. Releasing familiar flavors of green grapes and grapefruits, and less common flavors such as daffodil and almond, this light-bodied white wine is deliciously complex and mirrors a similar profile of Sauvignon Blanc.
Though mostly dry, Vermentino is somewhat oily with flavors of citrus and (mild) salt, brought on from the natural growing landscape and Mediterranean sea blowing over the Sardinian vineyards. The wine’s finish can be slightly edgy with a hit if bitterness, similar to a grapefruit or fresh almond; however that shouldn’t deter you from the wine, as these flavor profiles make Vermentino the ideal pairing with any fish or citrus-centric dish.
Nuragus di Cagliari
Nuragus di Cagliari is a white wine that is made exclusively from the Nuragus grape, an indigenous variety that is mainly found in the Cagliari region of Sardinia. This grape is known for producing wines that are delicate and nuanced, with a unique taste profile that sets them apart from other white wines.
One of the most notable features of Nuragus di Cagliari is its pale yellow color, which is characteristic of the wine. The wine’s delicate aroma is also noteworthy, with fruity notes that include hints of green apple, lemon, and lime, as well as subtle floral undertones.
On the palate, Nuragus di Cagliari is a refreshing and easy-drinking wine that offers a range of flavors. These flavors include notes of green apple, citrus, and floral tones, with moderate acidity that adds a pleasant crispness to the wine. The wine’s clean finish is also noteworthy, with a refreshing aftertaste that lingers on the palate.
Nuragus di Cagliari is a versatile white wine that pairs well with a variety of foods, including seafood, salads, and light pasta dishes. It is also an excellent choice for those looking for a refreshing wine to enjoy on its own on a warm summer day.
Nasco di Cagliari is a rare and unique white wine that is produced from the Nasco grape, an indigenous variety that is mainly grown in the Cagliari region of Sardinia. This grape is known for producing wines that are rich and full-bodied, with a complex taste profile that is both intense and nuanced.
One of the most striking features of Nasco di Cagliari is its golden color, which is characteristic of the wine. The wine’s complex aroma is also noteworthy, with a range of notes that include dried fruits, such as apricots and raisins, as well as honey, spices, and floral undertones.
On the palate, Nasco di Cagliari is a rich and full-bodied wine that offers a range of flavors. These flavors include notes of dried fruits, honey, and spices, as well as hints of nuts and citrus. The wine’s texture is also noteworthy, with a smooth and velvety mouthfeel that is complemented by a long and satisfying finish.
Nasco di Cagliari is a wine that pairs well with a variety of foods, including seafood, poultry, and aged cheeses. It is also an excellent choice for those looking for a wine to enjoy on its own as a sipping wine, or as an after-dinner drink.
Malvasia di Bosa
Malvasia di Bosa is a white wine that is made from the Malvasia di Sardegna grape, which is mainly found in the western part of Sardinia. This grape variety is known for producing wines that are rich in flavor and aroma, with a unique taste profile that is truly representative of Sardinia’s winemaking tradition.
One of the most notable characteristics of Malvasia di Bosa is its golden color, which is characteristic of the wine. The wine’s aromatic profile is also noteworthy, with notes of apricot, honey, and almonds that combine to create a complex and nuanced aroma.
On the palate, Malvasia di Bosa is a rich and full-bodied wine that offers a range of flavors. These flavors include notes of apricot, honey, and almonds, as well as subtle hints of citrus and spice. The wine’s texture is also noteworthy, with a smooth and velvety mouthfeel that is complemented by a balanced acidity and a persistent finish.
Malvasia di Bosa is a versatile white wine that pairs well with a variety of foods, including seafood, poultry, and pasta dishes. It is also an excellent choice for those looking for a wine to enjoy on its own as a sipping wine, or as an after-dinner drink.
Additional Styles of Sardinian Wine
The Monica grape is also commonly used for Rosé or blending, as it tends to rather be perfume-y. When used for Rosé, the wine takes on a watermelon color, as there is a little more pigment to the skin. However, don’t let the color mislead you, as these qualities also makes the Rosé varietal bone dry.
The Island also, of course, has Moscato, and is currently growing some super Sardinian Cabernets, utilizing the Carignano grape.
Visit & Taste the Wines of Sardinia
Sardinia wines are must-try, whether you’re visiting the Mediterranean or trying a bottle at your local wine bar, as the exports and price points of the island-native wines are currently very affordable.
Read our article about some of the best wineries in Sardinia to visit, plus a wide range of Sardinian wines that are easy to find at home. We definitely recommend sampling some classic examples of Sardinian wine before visiting the island so you know what to expect.