This Vermentino-based blend hails from the noble terroir of Gallura, a complex mosaic of chalky, fossil-rich limestone and decomposed granite in the stark, windswept mountains of northern Sardinia. A field blend featuring other indigenous varieties such as Nasco, Malvasia, Moscato, and Arvesiniadu, Prama Dorada digs back deep into the island’s past, giving us an idea of what Sardinian whites might have resembled before modern enology introduced techniques like commercial yeast inoculation and sterile filtration. Full-bodied, fleshy, slightly cloudy, and packed with alluring scents of wild herbs and flowers, this saline beauty has a place alongside the great wines of Arena and Abbatucci among the most compelling whites of the Mediterranean.
Vigne Rada is a young estate founded by Gino Bardino, a former banker who quit his office job to follow his dream of making wine. Gino and his family built a modest winery and began to plant vineyards on the slopes outside their home of Alghero, a colorful city on Sardinia’s northwest coast still distinguished by the cultural influence of fourteenth-century Catalan colonists. The folks at Vigne Rada grow only varieties traditional to the area, including Cannonau (known elsewhere as Grenache), likely an import from that period of Catalan occupation. This elegant island red—gorgeously perfumed of sweet fruit with a mineral note akin to rain on hot asphalt—suggests the grape is perfectly adapted to the local terroir.
The Cannonau grape (a.k.a. Grenache) finds a grandiose expression in Mamoiada, in the heart of Sardinia’s mountainous interior. With a mere two hectares of vines and a radically artisanal approach to his craft, Giovanni Montisci has earned a cult-like following for his powerful and distinctive wines from organically farmed old vines grown at 650 meters elevation. The chilly nights here preserve freshness while favoring a deep, complex expression of Cannonau that ranks among the world’s finest Grenaches. Naturally fermented, aged in large casks, and bottled unfiltered, Giovanni’s 2016 “Barrosu”—a local word for someone who is brazen or bold—is imposing as its name suggests, recalling wild strawberry, juniper, and Mediterranean scrubland.
Sardinia may be surrounded by water, but in Mamoiada, the landscape is rugged and mountainous, with cold, harsh winters. The local cuisine reflects this, and specialties are from the land rather than the sea. The rich, powerful wines produced here perfectly complement this hearty, rustic, earthy cuisine. Featured dishes of the area include culurgiones—large ravioli stuffed with potatoes, pecorino, and wild herbs—as well as pastas with porcini mushrooms and wild game, which can be found in abundance. Giovanni’s cellar is dotted with hanging legs of prosciutto, to be sliced up and served during a tasting; the luckiest guests will have the fortune of enjoying his wife’s crispy, tender roast suckling pig—a match made in heaven with an exquisite Cannonau.