Letitia Clark, a British transplant to the Mediterranean’s second-largest island, recently published a cookbook called Bitter Honey: Recipes and Stories from the Island of Sardinia, and it is a gem. Unsurprisingly, Sardinian and mainland Italian cuisine have a lot in common, but small differences in preparations and ingredients throughout each recipe in this book make the former’s dishes thrillingly distinct. Like those recipes, Deperu Holler’s saline, vibrant Vermentino sings its own beautiful tune, not the song of Vermentino grown in, say, Liguria, or even the island of Corsica just to the north. It pairs exquisitely with Clark’s recipe for fregola—a small, round Sardinian pasta—with clams and fennel, but it also would wonderfully complement all kinds of seafood or light pastas.
Carlo Deperu and his wife Tatiana Holler are crafting some of the most serious whites of the Mediterranean basin. The couple met in Milan, where Carlo earned his degree in viticulture and enology while Tatiana had come to study advertising from her native Brazil. In 2005, they returned to Carlo’s hometown of Perfugas, where his family had long made wine. The couple replanted the family vineyards and added new parcels, ultimately growing to 6 ha. Vermentino thrives here, giving full-bodied, mineral wines that rank among the Mediterranean’s most complex whites. The couple also produces a perfumed, chewy red from Cannonau and Muristellu. These wines are loaded with local character and brilliantly complement Mediterranean cuisine.
Our first foray into Sardegna is very recent, and it only took one trip to fall in love with the island, its culture, and its wines. Similar to its northerly neighbor, Corsica, there is a strong regional identity here that goes far beyond its official status as one of Italy’s twenty regions. Its people are proud, strong-willed, and deeply attached to their traditions—a distinctive character often seen with island people and accentuated by its long history of invasions and outside rule.
This tumultuous past has resulted in diverse influences—Greek, Roman, Aragonese, Catalan, and Ligurian, just to name a few—that have shaped the island’s culture, language, cuisine, and wines over many centuries. While Vermentino and Cannonau (aka Grenache) reign, Sardegna also boasts a number of indigenous grapes that are capable of expressing something unique in its abundant variety of terroirs.
The Mediterranean plays a major role, providing cooling, salty breezes to coastal areas, while the rugged, mountainous interior is home to high-altitude sites where wines retain freshness in spite of the southerly latitude. The granitic highlands of Gallura and Barbagia come to mind as some of its most qualitative zones, but a range of soils, elevations, and varying distance to the sea mean that the island is capable of producing wines in all styles, from crisp whites to powerful reds and exquisite vini dolci.
The three growers we represent bring something new to the table, something fascinating that is not found elsewhere in Italy or even in nearby Corsica. Their wines evoke the rustic beauty of this fascinating island civilization, and of course, pair perfectly with the local cuisine, be it seafood-based or the hearty, earthy specialties of its interior.
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