Sardinia’s combination of hills and plains, coastal regions and inland areas offers useful diversity of topography and mesoclimates. To further these benefits, the available soils and bedrocks vary from granite, limestone and sandstone to mineral-rich clays and free-draining sands and gravels. Located between 38 and 41 degrees north, the island lies at the southern edge of European viniculture, but thanks to the cooling effects of the Mediterranean, the maritime climate here is more forgiving than in other regions at this latitude
The closest mainland wine regions to Sardinia are Tuscany and Lazio, and yet the key varieties used in these two are almost nowhere to be seen in Sardinia’s vineyards. Instead one finds varieties of French and Spanish origin. In fact, Sardinian wines have been influenced by a successive waves of invaders, with the Spanish leaving the most indelible mark.
Cannonau di Sardegna is a red wine from the Cannonau grape, the local name for the Grenache. It is one of Sardinia’s most successful wine grapes. It has long been thought that the variety arrived on Sardinia with the Aragonese when they conquered the island in the early 14th Century (from what is now Aragon). However, in the past few years, Italian researchers have uncovered evidence suggesting that Cannonau (and therefore Grenache) may well have originated right in Sardinia.
In his book, Blue Zones, Dan Buettner, says the best wine on the planet for longevity is “Cannonau Red Wine”. Cannonau wine has the highest count of polyphenols in the world. Dan Buettner, in conjunction with National Geographic, determined that Cannonau wine plays a role in the longevity of the Sardinian population. From this research and the known effects of flavonoids, it can be said that moderate wine consumption may increase life expectancy while also lowering stress levels.
The region-wide Cannonau di Sardegna DOC title covers the entire island, from Sulcis and Cagliari in the south to Gallura in the north – a distance of approximately 175 miles (265km). It was introduced in June 1972, roughly the same time as its Muscat-based equivalent Moscato di Sardegna. Roughly one bottle in every five of Sardinian wine is a Cannonau di Sardegna.
Both red and rosé wines are produced under the title, with aged riserva and fortified liquoroso forms of the reds. To earn the additional title riserva, a Cannonau di Sardegna wine must have a minimum alcoholic strength of 13% alcohol by volume, and have been aged for at least two years before commercial release. This is known as affinamento obbligatorio (obligatory ageing period). Six months of this ageing period must be spent in barrels made of chestnut or, more commonly, oak.
The finest examples of Cannonau di Sardegna are arguably from the eastern half of the island, in the Nuoro, Ogliastra and Cagliari provinces. Within these provinces, three sub-regions have been officially recognized as areas delivering Cannonau wines of particular quality. The first is Nepente di Oliena (or Oliena), which is exclusively for wines from the town of Oliena, in the eastern Nuoro province, and which Buon Gusto, LLC is its only importer in the United States. The second is Capo Ferrato (not to be confused with Cap Ferrat on the coast of Provence), which applies to the communes of Castiadas, Muravera, San Vito, Villaputzu and Villasimius in the island’s southeastern corner. The third is Jerzu, which applies exclusively to wines from the Jerzu and Cardedu communes.