Guide To Sardinia's Lifestyle, Cuisine and Wines

Sardinia is an island in the Mediterranean between Italy and Africa. Although it is part of Italy, it is worlds away from a typical Italian region. In many respects, the only way to describe it is that it’s Sardinian. There is even a Sardinian dialect, although locals speak Italian as well. The cuisine, wine, culture and way of life are all a little bit different from the mainland, and all of these aspects are attributed to Sardinia becoming one of the 5 “blue zones” in the world. A blue zone is an area where locals live to be over 100 years old. Perhaps a visit will tack on a few more years to your life.

Sardinian Lifestyle

With aqua blue waters surrounding the island, it’s no surprise that a relaxed, beachy vibe encompasses the region. The isolation of the island does not translate to isolation ON the island. There is massive importance on community—families generally stay in close contact and get together regularly, friends meet up often and there is much collaboration in terms of work and agriculture.

The Cuisine of Sardinia

Barely any red meat is consumed as the protein is mostly fish, and dairy products come from local sheep and goats so they lack the sensitive lactose enzyme.

Notably, the wines are rich in resveratrol—an antioxidant which has recently been touted to contain numerous health benefits.

Sardinian pasta is not produced like a typical noodle, but instead, a small round semolina-base is used called Fregola. These pastas are usually made with shellfish and tomato sauce with saffron (which Sardinia is a major producer of)—almost like a paella.

When it comes to bread, it’s less like focaccia and more crepe-like, except that it is crispy until dipped in a sauce. This bread is called pane carasau (translation: music paper bread).

Other culinary experiences of note in Sardinia are:

  • Suckling Pig or “porcheddu” which is cooked over myrtle leaves for hours and then served on a cork tray.
  • Bottarga is dried mullet roe that is sliced thin and served on bread or over pasta.
  • Casu Marzu is a sheep’s milk cheese that gets its flavor and texture from live maggots. Yes, maggots. Once the maggots have ingested the cheese, they expel an acid that causes the hard cheese to break down and become spreadable. Recently, it has been regulated more and more and is increasingly hard to find. 
  • Red Tuna — or tonno rosso — is a delicacy from the Mediterranean Sea between May and June and is served in a number of ways. Most often it can be found alongside simple, fresh ingredients like basil, tomatoes and olive oil. 
  • Octopus, sea urchin, mussels, and of course sardines are par for the course across the island as well.

Sardinian Wine

Red Wines of Sardinia

Cannonau has long been Sardinia’s most successful offering. Cannonau is actually the same as Grenache, and has been linked to the longevity of the locals as it is high in anthocyanins and polyphenols, both antioxidant-rich compounds. 

More recently, the region has made a big push to shine a light on its Carignano, or Carignan as it’s known in the States. Said to have been brought over by the Phoenicians, Carignano found a perfect home along the coasts of Sardinia with its resistance to wind, salt and spring colds.

A Bronze-age Burial site located alongside vineyards in Sardinia. "Giants' tombs"
A Bronze-age Burial site located alongside vineyards in Sardinia. A famous megalithic archaeological location also known as the “Tombs of Giants.” Ancient history and modern culture converge on Sardinia.

Another red grape of note is Monica, which is barely grown anywhere else in the world. It is a lighter-style red with low tannin and acidity and makes for an easy-drinking juicy wine. 

White Wines of Sardinia

Vermentino is king in the white wine department and the Sardinian wine region produces lush and intriguing bottles of wine. The diurnal shift gives it deep concentration and fatness, while the sea air gives it a hint of saline that registers as an undercurrent to the wine’s natural savory notes. 

Made in many styles from still, sparkling, and sur lie, Torbato is a grape that originated in Spain but is rarely seen anymore.

If you are looking for a rustic, dry white — try Nuragus, one of the most planted white vines on the island which boasts zesty acidity, light citrus and fresh orchard fruit. 

Moscato also calls Sardinia home, although it is typically made in a still style.

Grown since Roman times, Nasco named for its mossy aromas — is unique and beguiling. It is made in still styles typically but some producers use it to make sparkling wines.

Be on the lookout for the follow-up article on Winetraveler that will guide you through the top producers to visit, as well as wines from Sardinia to try at home.

More Ways To Explore Italy

10 Charming Italian Towns To Visit If You Love Food & Wine

Collio: One of the Most Unique White Wine Regions of the World

Franciacorta Itinerary: How To Spend a Week in Northern Italy

Campania: Fall in Love With the Aglianico Grape Variety

Written By Carrie Dykes

Carrie Dykes is wine writer and reviewer living in the Hudson Valley region of New York. Her by-line can be also be found in Hudson Valley Wine Magazine, InCider Japan, The Cork Report and Wine Enthusiast Magazine. She is an international wine judge for the IWSC, where she uses the skills she has learned in her WSET Diploma training. 

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