Today’s post is dedicating to the one of the oldest – if not the oldest – grape variety grown in the Mediterranean Basin: Cannonau. For centuries it was believed that Cannonau is actually just a clone of Garnacha (a.k.a Grenache) and that the grape variety was brought to Sardinia in the 14th century by the Crown of Aragon, which ruled the Mediterranean island for over a century and studies in Spain revealed that Cannonau and Garnacha have a lot in common. However, more recent studies have proven that Cannonau has been planted on Sardinia for more than 3200 years and that it is endemic to the Italian island. It was only possible to prove this in the early 2000s after ancient grape seeds were found at an excavation site in Duos Nuraghes, a Bronze Age settlement located on the eastern part of Sardinia.
Cannonau is not only the oldest grape variety of Sardinia but also the most popular one and over 90% of it is used to produce DOC wine – primarily Cannonau di Sardegna DOC, which has to be produced with at least 85% Cannonau. Often it is blended with Bovale Sardo, Carignano and Barbera.
Sardinia is home to tons of small and large wineries – the most well-known ones are probably Santadi, a large cooperative that produces the likes of Terre Brune and Rocca Rubbia, and Argiolas, a family owned winery that makes the prestigious Turriga. One of my personal favorites is, however, Meloni Vini.
Meloni Vini was founded at the end of the 19th century and is located in Selargius, a small town in the south of Sardinia. They dedicate their wine making passion to certified organic wines and are considered one of the most important organic wineries of Sardinia. Next to their farm in Selarigus, Meloni Vini also owns three others farms in the province of Cagliari and in total they cultivate around 250 hectares. . Meloni Vini produces around 1.800.000 bottles per year. Let’s take a closer look at two Cannonau from Meloni Vini.
2011 Meloni Vini – Terreforru – Cannonau di Sardegna DOC
Meloni’s Terreforru is produced with 90% and 10% local grape varieties. After a fermentation in stainless steel vats, the wine aged in large oak barrels and steel tanks. In order to preserve the intense fruit aromas of the Cannonau grape Meloni Vini decided not to age the wine in barrique. Terreforru is classified as Cannonau di Sardegna DOC.
In the glass, deep ruby red color with orange hues.
On the nose, was rich and very intense with aromas of forrest fruit, vanilla and licorice.
In the mouth, dry, heavy, warm and full-bodied. Terreforru is of good balance and comes with an ABV of 14%. Pleasing mellow tannins and intense flavor of red berries. Never-ending
Terreforru retails in Munich for around 10€. That’s a really good QPR – especially when compared to Cannonau of other Sardinian wineries. Terreforru is one of the wines I can always bring to a party – there rarely is somebody that dislikes this wine.
2011 Meloni Vini – Le Sabbie Rosso – Cannonau di Sardegna DOC
According to the technical sheet, Le Sabbie Rosso is a blend of 90% Cannonau and 10% Barbera & Syrah. The wine aged for twelve months in French oak barrels after a fermentation in stainless steel tanks. Subtle, persistent finish. Just like the Terreforru, Le Sabbie’s denomination is Cannonau di Sardegna DOC.
The bouquet was composed of aromas of green bell pepper, viola, tobacco and blackcurrant. Overall Le Sabbie Rosso was less fruity than the Terreforru but the nose more was more complex and offered a larger selection of aromas.
On the palate, dry, very smooth and of medium body. Le Sabbie Rosso was of good structure and when compared to the Le Sabbie Rosso more elegant but also less powerful. Flavorful, lingering aftertaste.
Le Sabbie has a retail price of around 15€.
Sardinia is one of the few Italian regions where wines are still reasonably priced. Rarely I get disappointed by a wine (no matter if white or red) that comes from the second largest island of the Mediterranean Sea. One reason for this is that a large majority is not familiar with wines from Sardinia and therefore they avoid them (I witness this every time I work in Munich-based wine store). This is one of reasons why I decided to write this post.
The Sardinian soil is rich and suited for many grape varieties (even though Cannonau and Vermentino are the most popular ones) and therefore winemakers are able to produce wine for different tastes – after all wine is always something personal. However, I’d argue that most people that haven’t tried Cannonau will enjoy drinking it. At least most of my customers who tried Cannonau were positively surprised. If you are unfamiliar with Cannonau then make sure to add this grape variety to your to-try list. Terreforru and Le Sabbie are probably not available overseas but like I said in the introduction of this post there are many wineries on Sardinia that produce Cannonau. If you need some other Cannonau recommendations then just ask me.
That’s all for now. Let me know what you think about Cannonau and Sardinian wine in general in the comment section below. Cheers!