Mamoiada may not be a household name in the way that Châteauneuf-du-Pape, for example, is synonymous with world-class Grenache. And yet, with vineyards that reach 2,500 feet above sea level, this tiny village in the heart of central Sardinia’s highlands is emerging as a top site for Cannonau, as the grape is known locally. The mountain terroir is unparalleled in Sardinia or elsewhere, endowing Cannonau with extraordinary concentration while preserving precious freshness that allows its wines to elegantly toe a delicate balance. Giovanni Montisci, who farms just two hectares of stubby old vines, remembers the traditional wines of Mamoiada—sweet, alcoholic, rustic brews served with the region’s similarly rustic cuisine—and refined things a bit, taking inspiration from Quintarelli, Rayas, and the best in Barolo. He crafts dry Cannonaus of a regal caliber that channel these legends through the lens of Mamoiada’s high-elevation, decomposed granite soils. The sweetly perfumed nose of rose petals, wild strawberry, and juniper prefaces this deep and powerful, yet exquisitely refined Cannonau, definitively putting Mamoiada on the map for lovers of Grenache and great Italian reds in general.
Another variety, Cagnulari, owns the spotlight around Alghero, on the island’s northwest coast. Thought to be the local version of Spain’s Graciano, possibly introduced to Sardinia during the period of Catalan occupation centuries ago, Cagnulari gives a dense, inky red that starkly contrasts with the comparatively lightweight, translucent Cannonau. In the three years since we began working with family-run Vigne Rada, we have seen their Cagnulari go from an unapologetically tannic, tooth-staining animal to something velvety, replete with rich black fruit and fragrant reminders of the scrubby coastal vegetation that surrounds the vineyards. Like the Cannonau above, Rada’s dense, minty 2016 Cagnulari is a reminder to take Sardinian reds very seriously. Make room on your table and in your cellar to savor novel flavors from these newfound stars of this Mediterranean paradise.
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