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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.
For the wines that I buy I insist that the winemaker leave them whole, intact. I go into the cellars now and select specific barrels or cuvées, and I request that they be bottled without stripping them with filters or other devices. This means that many of our wines will arrive with a smudge of sediment and will throw a more important deposit as time goes by, It also means the wine will taste better.