Well before we opened our restaurant, A16, I began my Italian love affair on the island of Sardinia. Its beauty is renowned, but the elongated island is also a sanctuary for ampelographers (botanists who specialize in grapevines), foodies, anthropologists, and vacationers. Sardinia’s west coast is world renowned for bottarga (the pressed, dried roe of tuna or gray mullet), equestrians, and Spanish colonial cities like Alghero that reflect the diverse lifestyle of the island. During the summer months, flights to the island are jammed with Italian sun worshippers seeking natural beauty, celebratory evenings, and la dolce vita at its finest.
Vermentino di Gallura was the first Sardinian wine I’d ever tried, and it’s still a favorite. This stone-fruit, mineral-tinged dry wine never fails to amaze me with how beautifully it matches the vast array of seafood and tangy pecorinos found on the island that can’t be missed. It can be found in the U.S. as well. The white grape nuragus, which is even more widely planted than the popular vermentino, is named after the prehistoric people who were indigenous to the island. The hard-to-find Passito, which comes from the nasco grape found inland near the port of Karalis, is a rare treat that offers up yet another story of ancient Sardinia with its musk, orange rind, and almond flavors. The white wines of Sardinia draw one in and romanticize the island’s ability to take over the senses and allow time to slow down with the ebb and flow of the surrounding sea, in welcome contrast to the briskness of modernity. That is Sardegna.