Today’s episode features Labyrinth Row White wine Merchant’s esteemed partner, Tornatore, which is produced on Sicily’s Mount Etna. Yes, that Mount Etna, among the world’s most active volcanoes. In reality, the Tornatore household started growing grapes in Etna in 1865, making them the most established wine-growing households there. To try Tornatore wine, follow the link in the episode description to TheBarrelRoom.com, where you’ll find Rosso, Red, and Bianco White wine.
On this episode of “White wine 101,” VinePair’s tastings director Keith Beavers checks out Sardegna, an island with a culture and native language really different from the mainland. The exact same chooses the wine. Tune in for more information!
Listen on Apple Podcasts
Listen on Spotify
Or Check Out the Discussion Here
Keith Beavers: My name is Keith Beavers, and New Age Red wine Tastings moved into my DMs this week stating, “Hey, Keith, here’s a quip for you: Select-A-Size paper towels are just smaller paper towels.” I’m like, “It makes complete sense. Also, Select-A-Size, how many sizes exist to choose?”
What’s going on, wine fans? From the VinePair Podcasting Network, this is “Wine 101.” My name is Keith Beavers. I am the tastings director of VinePair. And how are you?
We’re staying off the coast. We’re going to another island. It’s called Sardegna. If you heard of or have had wines from Sicily, that’s remarkable. There’s a really likelihood you might not have had the wines from Sardegna, or if you had, you might not have actually known it. Let’s enter into it.
Okay. Here we are on another island north of Sicily, another huge island. Not as huge as Sicily, but big, called Sardegna. You might know it as Sardinia. And I really wish to get you people into these white wines if you have not. Sardegna is a red wine area that … not a lot of individuals know about it, however often wines from there are consumed not knowing that it’s from there. I’m going to get into all that in a minute. But the beauty of Sardegna is its individuality. In Sicily, we yapped about the individuality of Sicily and how being an island, it had been inhabited by lots of cultures. In Sardegna, this is likewise the same, but it goes even further. It gets back at more intense.
Sardegna as an island has actually been occupied by a lot of cultures also. However in doing so, those cultural languages would ultimately come together to create an actual language specific to Sardegna called Sardo. Prior to the Romans, it was Carthage that owned this land, then the Romans, then the Byzantines, then the Arabs, then the Catalans. These languages would come together to develop the Sardo language, and then you could likewise layer on top of that some older Latin. And then after all of that, in 1726, the island was delivered to the house of Savoy, ending up being an important part of Italy– now we can put Italian on top of that. The Sardo language is this wild, gorgeous language specific to Sardegna. What’s fascinating about this is the language itself– this is a very general declaration, and I make sure it’s not completely true– but the majority of the words, well, specifically in white wine from Sardegna, they all end in an O-A-U vowel ending. This comes through in the names of the grapes and in the names of the locations in which these vines grow.
I’m stating all this due to the fact that these white wines are easy to take pleasure in, they’re easy to drink, and they’re just fantastic wines coming from Sardegna. However because the language is what it is, and since often on a label it can be a little bit complicated, it’s easy to go, “Okay, well let’s just not drink that.” But inside the bottle is amazingness.
Okay, let’s enter it. When we were talking about Sicily, we discussed white wine and how white wine was absolutely a part of the culture, but wasn’t the most fundamental part of the culture. This is the same thing in Sardegna. Whereas wine was definitely crucial, part of the culture, part of the diet, part of all that, but it was, I think you might say little compared to their animals and what they got from animals. There is a mountainous area in Sardegna, in the middle of the area, and all of the foothills begin with the coast and work their way up into the foothills and after that into the mountainous regions. There’s a great deal of animals taking place here.
Also, since it’s an island, it has a very abundant seafood culture too. The red wine was complementary to this since just like in Sicily, Sardegna went into a bulk red wine phase, and after that needed to get out of a bulk red wine stage. That bulk white wine stage wasn’t as big. The production was not as big as in Sicily, but it was big. And for a long time, this is what controlled the red wine culture of Sardegna.
When you have a bulk white wine element to your wine culture, you have co-ops. Now, co-ops before the EU were a little bit rough since they were subsidized by city governments who never really had sufficient cash to help improve the conditions as these things aged. When the EU happened, it was much easier to have co-ops because there were aids from the government to assist keep these cooperatives approximately date with technology and sanitation and all of that. As Sardegna drew away from quantity and started concentrating more on quality, a lot of cool things began taking place. I believe there are, well, practically 20 DOCs on this island alone and only one DOCG, and very similar to what you get in Sicily. And this is an indication that the island has actually moved far from this quantity over quality. However what’s truly terrific about Sardegna today is that not just does it have all these DOCs– and I can’t go through all of them, however I wish to go through a couple prior to this episode is over, to provide you a sense of what you’re visiting out there in the American market, but there is still a heavy presence of cooperatives in Sardegna.
But today, due to its support from the EU, co-ops are a whole various entity than they when were. And when I remained in Sardegna, I had the chance to go to one of these co-ops and it was incredible. It was incredibly tidy– naturally, it was, this is modern winemaking, but they in fact had a test vineyard. This is remarkable. There are vineyards in Sardegna that are called test vineyards, and there are these vineyards all over the location. However what’s really incredible is they’re finding all these different native varieties that they don’t know what kinds of red wine they make. They have these vineyards that are evaluating these ranges that you’ve probably never ever heard of since they’re not even on the American market with names like Moscadato. I understand. That’s crazy.
But what’s cool about Sardegna is it’s old and it’s got a great deal of history there with the white wine and all that, but we’re still in a place where we’re seeing the island develop in front of our eyes. Whereas, they have all these DOCs. There are a lot of winemakers, a great deal of wine makers in Sardegna that are on the American market revealing us the diversity of their island, and the co-op thing and the bulk wine thing still happens, however at a different quality level. It’s pretty incredible. When I was at the co-op, we went to the reception office. And before you get to the reception workplace, there is this station, a pump station with these nozzles. And as we were waiting to opt for the trip of the winery, a family strolled in, literally a mom, a dad, and 2 children, and they had these huge plastic jugs, and they just walked up to the pump station, got a nozzle, stuck it into their huge plastic jugs and gave a bunch of red wine through a hose pipe that they then topped and removed with them. That was their white wine for, I don’t understand, the month, the year.
It’s still happening, however it’s occurring with modern technology. And it is a fascinating, fantastic, terrific thing. It’s cool, when you’re consuming Sardinian white wine, you’re drinking these white wines that have actually been around for quite some time, but the old ways of doing things are still around however with modern innovation. I find that interesting. And I state these grapes have actually been on this island for a very long time, however typically, when we’re talking about Italian regions, we can go back way into antiquity and all this things. The important things about Sardegna is since of its occupation of all these cultures, the most popular ranges that are used to make red wine on the island are really from elsewhere through this history of profession.
For instance, the most popular red white wine grape on the island is a grape called Cannonau, C-A-N-N-O-N-A-U. It’s a really cool name, however it’s also not the initial name of the range. Keep in mind when we were talking about all those cultures, and had a list of them? Towards the end there was the Catalan, the Spanish were there for a very long time, and they brought Garnacha, or in French, they call it Grenache. In Sardegna they call it Cannonau. And Cannonau, or Garnacha, or Grenache, is all over the island. And it expresses itself entirely in a different way than it would in Spain and even in France.
It’s almost a various range in itself because of for how long it’s been on the island and exposed to the island, micro, and macro-climates. This grape is so ubiquitous and important that there is a DOC that covers the entire island called Cannonau de Sardegna. And this is what you’re visiting mainly on the American market, Cannonau de Sardegna, since it’s all over the island and they’re frequently very budget-friendly, medium body, good fruit. They can be a little bit thick in some cases and they can be a bit light in some cases depending upon where on the island the Cannonau was sourced from. However it’s an actually incredible medium-bodied red. It’s likewise actually, it’s a crowd-pleaser if I’m going to be real.
The other most common or most popular white wine grape on the island is a white wine grape called Vermentino. Vermentino is believed to have actually been brought to Sardegna from Corsica, a place we must absolutely talk about eventually. But it was brought to the northern part of the island and it stayed there and became an extremely crucial grape because part of the island to the point where now that northern part of the island is Sardegna’s only DOCG called Vermentino di Gallura. But similar to Cannonau, it’s an extremely crucial range for the island.
Similar to Cannonau, it has its DOC that covers the whole island, once again called Vermentino di Sardegna. On the American market, you’re visiting Vermentino, a lot of it from that large DOC. However you will also see Vermentino di Gallura, which is the DOCG. Gullura is G-U-L-L-U-R-A. Vermentino is a very light, brilliant, lemony, crisp, easy-drinking, often a little bit structured, white wine that goes fantastic with seafood. And the general DOC Vermentino you’re going to buy at $10, $15, is going to be really awesome. The DOCG Vermentino from Gullura is going to be amazing. All those things and focused. It’s a lower production, it’s a little more structured, there’s a bit more angles to the red wine. They’re absolutely tasty and with lobster? Forget it. Which’s the majority of what you’re visiting on the American market from Sardegna.
And let me tell you, that’s enough since a great deal of each of those ranges is readily available. But we have to talk about a couple of other places or red wines that you’re visiting that really define this island. If Cannonnau is the dominant red white wine range of Sardegna, the 2nd crucial range in Sardegna would be called Monica or simply Monica. M-O-N-I-C-A.
This once again is a range that concerned the island from Spain. It does not have as much of a connection to … We can’t really figure it out … Well, I didn’t do any of the work … The research that I read could not figure it out, but it is Spanish and they believe the word “Monica” [that] originates from the old Spanish word for “monks,” indicating this is among those ranges that was in an abbey someplace and made its method and spread throughout the island and now it’s just part of the island’s material in the wine-producing industry. Monica is a light to medium-bodied red wine. Again, similar to Cannonau, just like Vermentino, there is a Monica di Sardegna DOC that covers the entire island. If you see Monica, get it and check it out.
And advancing these grapes from somewhere else, being here and ending up being various is a DOC called Carignano del Sulcis. This is crazy. This is Carignan. Carignan, if you’re not really sure, we need to most likely discuss Carignan at some point. It is, how do I state this? It is a variety that was very prominent in the southern part of France. It is something that’s being phased out a little bit in the southern part of France due to the fact that it tends to have an extremely sharp, aggressive character to it. And some individuals are just going with it and much like, “You know what? I’m going to make Carignan happen.” It’s one of the varieties that actually assisted us get out of the phylloxera epidemic; go to the phylloxera episode if you want to get a little bit of that. But the thing about Carignano, or Carignan, in Sardegna, in the DOC of Carignano del Sulcis, you have these soft, voluptuous, round Carignano. It’s wild. You do not actually get these anywhere else in the world.
Carignan is, like I said, [it] can be sharp and angular. These white wines see a bit of that malolactic fermentation in some specific type of, I don’t understand, the oak direct exposure they have, it really softens them up and rounds them out. They’re simply such good, pleasurable wines. And I can’t speak about Sardegna and not mention Mandrolisai. I simply enjoy that word, Mandrolisai. This is cool. The thing is, we’re not visiting a lot of these wines on the American market, but I got to tell you people if you have an opportunity to seek them out, these wines are very unique, and not a lot of people learn about them. And they should. It’s a little production location; not a lot of it makes it on the American market. But Mandrolisai is this DOC smack dab in the middle of Sardegna, and it remains in the more sloping or mountainous area of the island.
And here they feature a red grape variety, once again from Spain, they call Bovale. But in Spain, it’s Bobal. And where in Spain, Bobal is not extremely, I do not want to say not popular, but it’s not a range, an honorable grape of Spain. However in Mandrolisai DOC, the Bovale grape, or the Bobal from Spain, reaches an incredible height of quality, an unbelievable height of quality, age-worthy quality, a tannin structure, a roundness, a bit of spiciness. These white wines are spectacular. They’ll make you stop briefly for a second: What is this and where is it from and why didn’t I get into this before? And wow. Again, they’re not easy to discover. They can be a bit pricey, but if you get a possibility, this is among those unique red wines worldwide that you can discover on the American market if you look. And they’re really special.
And that’s pretty much Sardegna for us. There’s more stuff to discuss. They do a lot with a grape called Malvasia. They do an entire thing with Moscato. They have another huge old island DOC for Moscato. We’re just not visiting a great deal of that on the American market. There’s other things that’s coming onto the American market. We’re going to begin seeing some more of yet another grape called Nuragus, which is a recommendation to the Nuraga, which are these ancient conical-like fortress/mound-like settlements that were around before the Carthage occupation of Sardegna. It’s a gewurztraminer grape. Literally is not actually on the American market yet, but it’s coming due to the fact that it’s very popular in Sardegna, popular in Italy, and it’s on its way. Watch out for that.
And I got to tell you, Sardegna is not done. I saw all these other ranges that I can not pronounce, except for Muscovado, since it was just much easier to pronounce. These grapes that are … they have these native names in their native tongue and they’re very difficult to pronounce, but they’re really excited about these grapes. The future of Sardegna is more and more of these native ranges. And I think the ranges that are going to be coming out in the next 20 or something years will be products of the varieties that came from somewhere else through natural crossings and stuff like that. It’s going to be a lot of fun. Sardegna is certainly a place to delight in now and keep your eye on.
Okay, men, I hope this helped you out with Sardegna. I hope you head out and buy some Sardinian red wine and tag me on Instagram, @VinePairKeith, and I’ll talk with you next week.
@VinePairKeith is my Insta. Rate and review this podcast any place you get your podcasts from. It really helps get the word out there.
And now, for some totally remarkable credits. “Red wine 101” was produced, recorded, and modified by yours really, Keith Beavers, at the VinePair head office in New York City. I want to give a big ol’ shout-out to co-founders Adam Teeter and Josh Malin for producing VinePair. Huge shout-out to Danielle Grinberg, the art director of VinePair, for producing the most awesome logo for this podcast. Likewise, Darbi Cicci for the theme song. Listen to this. And I want to thank the whole VinePair staff for assisting me discover something new every day. See you next week.
Ed. note: This episode has been modified for length and clearness.
E. & & J. Gallo Winery is thrilled to sponsor this episode of VinePair’s “Red wine 101.” Gallo always invites brand-new good friends to red wine with a fantastic large range of favorites, ranging from everyday to high-end and sparkling wines. I mean, Gallo likewise makes award-winning spirits, but this is a wine podcast. So whether you’re brand-new to red wine or a fanatic, Gallo welcomes you to white wine. We look forward to serving you pleasure in minutes that matter. Cheers. Visit thebarrelroom.com today to discover your next favorite, where shipping is readily available.