Let’s discover Sardinian wine, from ancient times to the present day
Sardinia has got one of the oldest winemaking traditions of the Italian territory.
On the island there are many native grapevines and the cultivation of the vine dates back to the Nuragic period (a period from the Bronze Age to the 2nd century AD), where the population already produced wine.
To confirm this a few kilometers from Cagliari, in the nuragic village of Monte Zara, was the discovery of a stone press that scholars trace back to a tool for pressing grapes.
Another proof of the ancient winemaking tradition of the time is found in Cabras where the nuragic well of Osa has naturally been preserving Vernaccia and Malvasia grape seeds (native grape varieties) for thousands of years.
There is irrefutable evidence of the production of Vitis Vinifera Sylvestris in the nuragic period, but some Greek legends tell that it was Aristeo, son of Apollo, who came to Sardinia from Boeotia, founded the ancient Caralis (today’s city of Cagliari) and introduced the cultivation of vines on the island.
The Spanish domination in the Middle Ages introduced “new” grapevines, including the Cagnulari also known as the Bove duro di Spagna: a black grape variety grown mainly in the lands of Usini and in the municipalities of Ossi, Tissi, Ittiri, Olmedo and Alghero.
It is used for the production of two Sardinian wines: the Alghero Cagnulari DOC and the Isola dei Nuragi IGT.
Sardinia offers an ideal habitat for the cultivation of the vine that has settled and persisted over time giving life to fine wines from Sardinia.
Obviously, with the spread of phylloxera (a phytophagous insect that attacks the roots of European grapevines) also in these areas they had to adopt the use of rooted cuttings, or the planting of Vitis Vinifera grafted onto the foot of American grapevines.
Thus the most ancient grape varieties have survived and come to us, and on the market today we can find the best of Sardinian wine. Let’s discover together this long wine-making tradition and get ready to follow your own Sardinia wine route!
Sardinian wine and territories
The Sardinian Cannonau DOC wine brings fame and honour to the region: it takes its name from the vine of the same name grown mainly in Ogliastra, in the Baronie, in the area around Nuoro and in the Romangia.
Among red grapes, rediscoveries are Carignano and Bovale grape varieties, produced in the province of Oristano mainly in the municipalities of Terralba. They are having a good success among Sardinian wine lovers.
In the historic Gallura wine region, among the most famous Sardinian wines we find the Vermentino di Gallura DOCG and the Vermentino di Sardegna DOC. From the white Vermentino grapes comes a product with a scent of citrus and yellow straw-coloured fruit.
Lastly, the Nugarus di Cagliari DOC, a fine Sardinian wine produced between Cagliari and Oristano.
This general overview of famous Sardinian wines is just the beginning. To find out more about Sardinian wine, keep reading the article!
Red wines from Sardinia
I cannot fail to mention the Cannonanu di Sardegna DOC again since its production is equivalent to one fifth of the total production of Sardinian wine.
It is interesting to note that locally the Cannoau grapevine together with other vines correspond to the name of Grenache.
Studies have in fact shown that these grape varieties share important parts of their genetic heritage and therefore they have similar characteristics such as the adaptability to warm or mild climates and to different territories. They express in the glass elegance and finesse, fully affirming their terroir.
Cannonau di Sardegna DOC is obtained from 99% of Cannonau grape and it must be aged for at least one year in oak or chestnut barrels. An ageing of more than three years leads this Sardinian wine to take on the denomination RISERVA.
There are three sub-denominations of this Sardinian red wine (both DOC):
- Cannonau di Sardegna of Capo Serrato, whose grapes come from the province of Cagliari
- Cannonau di Sardegan Jerzu, if the grapes come from the province of Nuoro-Ogliastra
- Cannonau Nepente di Oliena, from the territory of Oliena and Orgosolo (province of Nuoro)
The Sardinian red wine in question is perfect to pair with the traditional meat-based dishes of the Sardinian tradition: game, roasts and red meats but also tasty delicacies based on pork or wild boar and aged cheeses.
Right in the province of Nuoro in Mamoiada, the heart of the cultivation and production of this Sardinian wine, you can walk among the rows of old cannonau vines, immersing yourself where it all starts: the vineyard!
The experiences by Italia Delight bring you to know the great history of this fine Sardinian wine, from where it originates to where it is transformed with a visit to the wine cellar located in the historic centre of Mamoiada, thanks to our food expert who, in this case, is the winemaker.
At the end of each experience a glass of Cannonau will be there waiting for you!
Another important grape variety of this area is the Granatza or “Granazza”, a white grape often confused with the Vernaccia. Interesting for its marked acidity, it is used for the coupage of the most famous Sardinian wine: the Cannonau.
Other Sardinian red wines are:
- Alghero Rosso DOC, a ruby red wine tending to garnet with a good smell and body
- Campidano di Terralba or Terralba DOC (Bovale Sardo and Bovale di Spagna)
- Monica di Sardegna or Cagliari (both DOC)
- Carignano del Dulcis DOC
Sardinian wines – the white wines!
It is necessary to spend a few words about Sardinian white wines.
We have already mentioned the Vermentino, a semi-aromatic grape variety from which Vermentino di Gallura DOCG is produced. In Sardinia, it is perhaps the best white wine to pair with shellfish and sea fish dishes that enhance its sapidity as well as its intense and persistent flavour.
Vernaccia di Oristano is the Sardinian wine that in 1971 gave birth to the first DOC wine of Sardinia: Vernaccia di Oristano DOC.
This Sardinian wine is obtained with a special oxidative technique, typical of Jarez wine (or Sherry, a Spanish fortified wine) thanks to special yeasts (flor yeast).
This warm and dry Sardinian wine is produced less and less over the years: the 1,500 hectare vineyard area in the seventies reached only 270 hectares in 2019.
An aromatic grapevine that gives rise to the Cagliari DOC denomination is the white Moscato.
Thanks to its aromatic character, it is recommended to pair with blue, aged cheeses and dry pastries. Another excellent after-meal wine is the Malvasia di Bosa DOC, which is also made from aromatic grapes.
Nasco di Cagliari DOC is made from the native Sardinian grapevine with the same name. It has got a fruity, floral and musky smell, typical of this grape variety (the name “Nasco” in Sardinian means precisely musk).
Sardinia wines: Rosé & Sweet wines
It is important to refer to the rosé version of three Sardinian wines I previously mentioned:
- Cannonau di Sardegna DOC Rosato, with a rosy cherry colour and harmonious taste, is pleasant and with persistent notes of red fruits;
- Alghero Rosato DOC, excellent as an aperitif paired with cold cuts, is a Sardinian wine with a delicate and aromatic wine aroma;
- Carignano Rosato has got a less intense colour than the previous ones, but on the nose it has got an intense wine aroma.
Even more than Sardinian rosé wines, many grape varieties that I have already mentioned are vinified to obtain sweet wines: from Malvasia di Bosa, an amber wine with golden reflections, to Nasco di Cagliari of which there are different versions (Natural sweet, Dry, Natural sweet liqueur and Dry liqueur).
I recommend that you taste the natural sweet or dry Nasco di Cagliari with sebadas, a traditional Sardinian dessert.
📚 If you want to know more about Sardinian sweets, read the article I wrote about traditional Sardinian desserts!).
On the other hand, I would combine the natural sweet liqueur and dry liqueur versions with a cocoa dessert.
Cannonau and Alghero wines are also appreciated in the sweet version.
Alghero, a mix of different native grapevines (among white grapevines: Sauvignon, Orbato, Chardonnay and Vermentino; among red grapevines: Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Cagnulari), can be found in the white passito or red liqueur versions.
In Sardinia, history and pedoclimatic factors have encouraged the development of an important winemaking tradition, with many excellent wines produced by small and medium-sized companies or cooperatives. The population has been able to modernise and make their own new winemaking techniques, creating many Sardinian wines that compete with the best wines in the world.
Did you like the article on Sardinian wine by Nur Migahed, a graduate student in Gastronomic Sciences and Cultures at the Roma Tre University, for Italia Delight? Sign up to Italia Delight Newsletter! Stay up to date on the latest news from the Food Experts and receive your welcome discount.