It was over 30 years ago when I first tasted Sardinian wines. The wine maker had traveled to the US to promote his wines, which at the time were almost unknown. He had contacted small tasting groups in the area and literally came into my friend’s house to offer his wines. It was my first exposure to the island wines of Sardinia and one that I have never forgotten. The wines were unique and tasted like nothing I had drank up to that point. Not to say that I had much in the way of “global” wine experience back then, but the wines all had a refreshing and vibrant character, reflective of the sunny climate of the islands. Today, Sardinian wines are much more prevalent, almost mainstream. Although, the grape names can be confusing and many are only grown in Sardinia, which proves a challenge to sell. Despite the challenge, many restaurants and wine shops are doing their level best to introduce us all to the magical wines of Sardinia.
One producer that is making a big splash is Argiolas (http://www.argiolas.it/en/index.html), a family-owned winery that was started in the early 1900’s in the commune of Serdiana in southern Sardinia. The commune is roughly 12 miles north of the capital city of Cagliari. Here in Sedriana the Argiolas family owns several vineyard parcels, planted with mostly traditional Sardinian varietals. The family also owns vineyards in adjoining communes, Parteolla, Siurgus, Selegas and Guamaggiore. Overall, Argiolas has over 500 acres under vine in some of the most prized areas of Sardinia. The variety of soil, climate and elevation of their many properties gives them an opportunity to truly showcase the many indigenous grapes known only to Sardinia.
Two wines of note that I have enjoyed recently are the Costera and the Perdera, both wines in the Argiolas Tradition, or “mid-priced” category.
The Costera is a Cannonau di Sardegna (DOC) wine. The varietal is Cannonau, or Grenache as it is known in France and was brought by the Romans to Sardinia from Spain. The grapes are sourced from several vineyards, with the predominant soil having limestone, and clay elements, with a medium, loose mixture of small and medium-sized stones and pebbles. The climate is predominantly Mediterranean, with mild winters, limited rainfall, and very hot and windy summers. The wine is produced in a state-of-the-art facility employing temperature controlled primary fermentation, lasting about 12 days following maceration. Full malolactic is employed to soften the acids and the wine is then aged in small oak cooperage for up to 10 months. The wine is unfiltered, but mildly fined to remove some sediment. The wine itself has a bright, ruby and garnet color with a lively, spicy nose. On the palate, the wine exhibits red fruit notes with moderate tannin and acid providing good structure and balance. Not intended for long-term aging, the wine is drinking very well, although some bottle age will integrate the tannins.
The Perdera is a Monica di Sardegna (DOC) wine. Monica is a red grape that is almost solely grown in Sardinia. Like Cannanau, the grape originated in Spain, but it is no longer grown there. The grapes are sourced from several vineyards, again with limestone and clay structure and loose gravel top soil. The climate is Mediterranean, again with very limited rainfall, only averaging about 21 inches per year. Like the Costera, fermentation is temperature controlled, lasting about 10 days allowing a moderate extraction of tannin and pigment. The wine is again unfiltered and is aged in small oak cooperage for up to 8 months. The wine has a bright, ruby complexion with dark undertones and a spicy, lightly jammy nose. On the palate, the wine exhibits cherry and berry fruit with a hint of “sweetness.” The wine is structured, but possesses roundness with a smooth finish. Not intended for long-term again and drinking nicely.