Last month many of our ABC stores hosted a free Sardinian wine tasting, featuring three wines, two whites and one red. ABC often features these geographically specific tastings on weekends at the larger stores in most of our markets. You can check our website to see about upcoming events. I had to attend this one because I visited Sardinia over a decade ago, and I still have very fond memories of this beautiful Mediterranean island. It was a winey trip, so we didn’t get to spend time at their amazing beaches, but the incredible vineyards were quite memorable, as well as the wines produced and their delicious local cuisine.
Just last year there was a big hullaballoo about how the Sardinian people live longer than most Westerners, so of course we had to attribute that to their red wine, from a grape once thought to be indigenous by the Sardinians, Cannonau. Genetically identical to Grenache/Garnacha, Cannonau most likely originated in Spain as Garnacha and was brought to the Island during Spanish domination after the 12th Century. Now the marked longevity of the Sardinian people may have even more to do with their diet, full of local seafood, olive oil and fresh vegetables, and their lifestyle, a relaxing, stress-free Mediterranean island, rather than just their local wine, but as we know, wine is easier to import. The other major grape of Sardinia is the white grape, Vermentino, which is thought to originate in Liguria, Italy and made its way via Corsica.
Cantina Santa Maria La Palma was our featured Sardinian winery and we started with their Aragosta Vermentino. My first scent is of a bouquet of herbal flowers, like rosemary and basil, with some tart pear and quince fruit on the palate. As the wine opens up in my glass I get a secondary scent of citrus blossom, but the final finish was all mineral and pithy acids. Bright and refreshing, this is the wine to pair with Shrimp Scampi or any of our summertime seafood fair, as the label even features a prawn, to remind us. This is their entry level offering… ABC just brought in the reserve version, Blu.
The La Palma Grandi Classico Blu Vermentino is just a little more money but the flavor profile is quite different, even though it’s the same grape from the same winemaker from the same island. There is a fatter richness on the palate with this wine and I wanted to assume there was some oak aging, but alas I was fooled, no oak. The richer flavors come from a more selective vineyard site with optimum exposure with a different soil composition and a little more hang time on the lees during fermentation. My first whiff of this wine reminded me of mead and lemon blossoms, with more of those herbal flowers, but here more lemon balm and chive. A rounder mouthfeel and softer acids on the palate make this wine more appealing to typical Chardonnay fans, but the finish still has clean acidity and more of that volcanic minerality. Again this would pair with seafood, maybe even fattier fish like salmon and blue, or even a nice lemon-stuffed, herb-rubbed roast chicken.
The Cannonau from La Palma, Le Bombarde, has more mineral spice than many lighter Spanish Garnachas. I found the nose a little tight up front, but red currants and cranberries came across opening up to salty caramel-coated blackberries. There is real woodiness to this wine, with cedar and oak, but it finishes with some graphite minerality. I would pair this with their local lamb or salty, dried cheese. Imbibing with food lessens some of the mineral punch and softens the surprising tannic edges. This is a very classic Mediterranean red, Old World all the way!
As I’ve said before, Mediterranean wines are some of the best summer wines, and if you want to experiment with greater longevity through healthy wining, I am all for it! Go Sardinia! Even better, if you ever get to visit this island paradise, don’t leave, and your chances of living past 100 increase exponentially. Cheers!
Daniel Eddy, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits wine and spirits supervisor
Follow me on Twitter @abcwineDanE