Oristano, Sardegna

Mid western Sardegna was at one time the home to the Phoenicians and many other seafaring societies.  The island presented a unique mooring station for trading of all kinds.  Vineyards were planted using nonindigenous, old world varieties as well as using local varietals for both stand-alone or blending purposes.  More importantly, today the local grapes are used as the primary varietal in most wines coming out of the region.


When most people think of Sardinian wine, we tend towads the classic Sardinian Cannonau – ubiquitous across the entire length of the island.  So instead we will start with Nieddera, a classic grape that was saved from extinction by Contini in the late 1800’s.  A descendent of Bovale from Spain, it has a thick dark skin and beautiful fruit and spices.  Most times you will see it as a blending variety used to augment; but, it is beautiful on its own in the hands of a skillful winemaker.  One of the top Contini wines is called Bovalle.  The winemaker is likely the oldest in the area and one of the few exported.  This wine uses the classic styles and grapes of the area, but being a wine that can be enjoyed by itself or with modern pairings.


In terms of white wines, for which the region is better known, there is only one way go to… Vernaccia di Oristano.  Vernaccia can be a confusing variety to discuss, because nothing ever named vernaccia has anything to do with any other grape anywhere else.  The simple comparison is Vernaccia di San Gimignano in Toscana.  Vernaccia can simply translate as vernacular, which is the language of the area.  In this way, “vernaccia” refers to the local grape, one which has no relation to any other.  You can make “vernaccia” in any method anyone makes any wine except that each winemaker has a version and technique that is purely local.  With the high sugar and alcohol, the Oristano version is perfect for the same method used to make Jura in Spain.  The production includes a space in the barrels for air to live.  A layer of flor is created from the air and then left in barrel for over three years or more.  This contact with air creates a wine that becomes less sweet, lightly oxidized and more intense.  Think a softer Vin Santo.  Once bottled, the wine is perfect for cheeses, salted appetizers and heartier desserts.  It is also wonderful by itself as what they refer to as meditation wine.  


Hard to find in general, these wines are well worth the investment if you can find them.  When equiped with the relevant information, your local wine shop or a trusted sommelier should be able to find you the perfect wine.