Italian wines, and Italian wine regions, are some of the most famous in the world.
Anyone one who knows anything about wine has heard of Chianti. Italian wines like Amarone, Pinot Grigio, Barolo, Brunello and even the enigmatic moniker “Super Tuscan” are ubiquitous in the wine world.
Wine is made throughout Italy, even offshore of the mainland, and although wine drinkers might be well aware that there’s a lot of wine made on the island of Sicily, they may not know that good wine is also made in Sardinia, the second largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.
Two wines from top Sardinian producer Agricola Punica were showcased at a recent lunch hosted at Luca by one of its joint venture owners, Sebastiano Rosa. Others involved in the joint venture include the Sardinian winery Cantina di Santadi, the famous Tuscan winery Tenuta San Guido, and Santadi President Antonello Pilloni. Legendary Tuscan consulting winemaker Giacomo Tachis was also involved until his death in 2016.
“It’s a project we started more than 10 years ago,” said Rosa. “As a winemaker, I was always in love with Sardinia.” The inspiration behind the Agricola Punica project is the grape Carignan. Thought to have originated in Spain, where it is known as Mazuelo and Cariñena, it is a grape that usually plays second – or third or fourth – fiddle in red wine blends. It is a late-budding and late-ripening grape that is susceptible to rain-caused rot and mildew, so it needs a very warm climate with a long, dry growing season. Rosa says Sardinia is perfect for Carignano, which is what Carignan is called in Italy.
“In Sardinia, we really found its best terroir,” he said. “The summers are very sunny, with intense, pure light.” The warm climate conditions help keep Carignano’s naturally high acidity in check and allow for enough ripe, red fruit flavours to soften the grape’s high tannins.
Both of the Agricolo Punica wines, Montessu and Barrua, allow Carignano to take the starring role. Montessu blends 60 percent Carignano wine with 10 percent each of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. There’s an even higher percentage of the star grape in Barrua, with 85 percent Carignano wine blended with 10 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and five percent Merlot.
The Sardinian terroir combined with a unique blend and winemaking excellence produces wines that have the fruit flavours found in many New World red wines and the elegance associated with Old World wines. The wines surprise people, Rosa said.
“Everybody thinks Montessu is like Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s not; it’s more like Pinot Noir,” he said. Selling wines from a little-known wine region made predominantly with a lesser-known grape sounds difficult, but Agricola Punica has a great sales hook: its connection with Tenuta San Guido, the makers of perhaps the most famous Super Tuscan wine of all, Sassicaia.
“We sell the wines very well when we make the connection with Sassicaia,” Rosa said with a smile.
Both Montessu ($36) and Barrua ($66.90) are available at West Indies Wine Company, BlackBeard’s and Big Daddy’s.