Sardinia’s red wines take you into the heart of the island, capturing sun-ripened flavors that showcase the wild mountain underbrush, myrtle, orange rinds, and med-jool dates. I look for these unique flavors in reds such as Cannonau, Carignano del Sulcis, Covale, and Cagnulari. The reds have varying bodyweights depending on what part of the island and style of producer you discover. The lighter reds from Alghero can easily pair with a local fisherman’s stew or fregola dish, whereas the Carignano del Sulcis, which hails from the southeast corner of Sardinia, pairs nicely with lamb or suckling pork. I also love the way the reds’ sweeter tannins pair with bitter greens and earthy spices.
For centuries, Sardos have steeled themselves against coastal invasions, resiliently preserving the island’s perspective on life and culture, food, and wine. This also explains why, as a culture, they’ve also insulated themselves from the mainland. It’s as if this sparsely populated island that seems to float, untethered, in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea has always wanted to be left alone. Its distance from Italy’s west coast (111 miles eastward, across the Tyrrhenian Sea) also contributes to Sardinia seeming more foreign than any other region of the country. There’s certainly something wild here, and not just in its prehistoric ruins or aggressive driving styles (some refer to Sardinia’s strada statale that connects Calgiari with Porto Torres as “Italy’s most dangerous highway”). Its arid terrain includes desolate, brush-filled inland stretches and striking coastlines. The air alternates from piercing sirocco winds from northern Africa to tranquil sea breezes. The combination stirs something inside the casual visitor.
Owner and Wine Director, A16, San Francisco, California