Since we introduced Deperu Holler, Vigne Rada, and Giovanni Montisci in 2017, we have been continually blown away by the quality and character of wines from Sardinia. Our growers never cease to surprise us, from how they adapt their farming and winemaking to a more capricious climate, to the impressive strides they make each year, always seeking greater finesse, to their unique way of expressing the rich history and culture of their land through wines brimming with a sense of place. Sardinia is a magical island, seemingly lost in time and blessed with tremendous natural beauty, and these wines tap deep into the soul of this special place. You won’t find wines more authentic than these, not from anywhere.
This unfiltered Vermentino fulfills my fantasy of what island whites should be. From one of the island’s top terroirs for the grape, it is a pristine reflection of sun and sea, like a coastal breeze infused with wildflowers, citrus rind, and salty minerals.
In past vintages, I have described the Arsenale as dense, inky-black, and tooth-staining. Not so with the 2020. Winemaking adjustments, including the introduction of some whole clusters (known as the metodo lasagna in Italy), have shown the Cagnulari grape need not always be a tannic monster. Vigne Rada’s best version to date, it features the variety’s signature fragrance of eucalyptus and tobacco, only with softer tannins that line the palate like a velvet carpet.
The 999 on the label refers to the vineyard’s altitude, more than 3,000 feet above sea level. Could it be the highest Vermentino parcel on Earth? The chilly nights up here confer restraint to what feels as much like a mountain white as a Mediterranean one. Montisci’s measured use of skin contact yields a fleshy texture, gently enveloping a granitic core. Only fifty cases were produced, and we were lucky to secure a few for our shop.
Montisci has earned a cult-like following in Italy and beyond for his exquisite Cannonau, a beast of a wine that lives up to its moniker (in the local dialect, barrosu is someone brash or arrogant) while simultaneously exhibiting a grand cru level of complexity and refinement. There is no secret, just very old vines in a great site and tons of backbreaking labor year-round. Expensive, you say? Well, it sure does taste expensive.
We generally don’t buy wine without tasting it first, but when Giovanni told me he could offer twenty cases of a new Nebbiolo he made from ten rows of vines outside his village of Mamoiada, I knew it had to be something special. “Tutto,” I replied, when he asked how much we’d take. You’d be right to be skeptical of a Nebbiolo from Sardinia, but from a top-notch terroir high in the mountains, it is something else entirely. Then there is the Montisci hand—everything Giovanni touches turns to gold. Now with the wine arrived and tasted, I am pleased to report my instinct did not fail me. It does not taste like a Barolo, yet it outclasses all but the very finest wines from Piemonte. Barrolu is simply a masterpiece, a truly epic bottle of wine: mind-melting, jaw-dropping, absolutely regal stuff. It must be tasted to be believed.
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