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Sardinia is a region I have struggled with in my exploration of Italian wine. It isn't so much that varieties are unfamiliar (reference Cannanou, Bovale, Nasco, Naragus, and Monica), which is a common issue in Italy; rather that the wines often seem to lack a particular identity beyond the island's ability create very ripe, modern wine. We haven't seen the same sort of profusion of artisanal producers from Sardinia that have come from Sicily in recent years. Many of the wines I've encountered are well made but rarely translate a sense of place in the same way that the best producers do from Mount Etna, for instance.
The wines of Cardedu have struck me as something quite different, with more of a focus on the variety at hand rather than technique and polish. The estate is run by Sergio Loi and is located in Ogliastra on Sardinia’s east coast. The vines are planted only a few miles from the sea, where the soils have a high percentage of sand and decomposed pink granite. Loi shuns the use of pesticides and herbicides in his vineyards, farming the land without irrigation, fermenting all of his wines with native yeasts, and bottling unfined and unfiltered.
These are frankly some of the most exciting wines I have tasted from Sardinia. The Vermentino is full and salty with refreshing acidity, the Monica is juicy, and wildly herbal with crunchy mineral tones, while the Cannonau is intense and smoky with musky fruit. There is a common thread through all of the wines, a clear and persistent lift and freshness that is uncommon in this corner of the world. Cardedu is a great place to start to pay more attention to Sardinia. Andy Paynter
Vermentino is one of the only varieties that is widely planted on both Sardinia and the mainland of Italy, though Sardinian examples tend to be more intense and full-bodied. The Vermentino from Cardedu is produced from dry-farmed vineyards, tended without herbicides or pesticides, and fermented with native yeasts, with a few hours of skin contact in steel tanks. It is an intense white wine showing tones of wild mint and rosemary on the nose over orange rind, ripe yellow peaches, and hot sea air. The palate is quite full and dry, with mouthwatering acidity, juicy stone fruit, and a salty finish. This is a Vermentino well suited to fatty fish like sardines, cured cheese, spinach pie, gyro pitas with tzatziki, or herbed chicken. Andy Paynter
The wines of Sardinia sometimes seem a world apart from the rest of Italy, showcasing a unique stable of indigenous grapes not found on the mainland. One of the most interesting is Monica, a grape that shows much more freshness and lift than most Cannanou or Bovale, while still maintaining real intensity of flavor. Cardedu has produced a lovely Monica from dry-farmed vineyards, tended without herbicides or pesticides, and fermented with native yeasts, in stainless steel. The nose is intense with notes of rhubarb, strawberry, mint, wild sage, spice tones of black pepper, and a whiff of sea air. The palate is light (surprisingly so for its 13.5% abv) with fresh acidity and very little tannin, showing juicy red fruit and the same intense whirl of herbs and spices with a salty finish. "Praja" means “the beach” in the Sardinian dialect and it would be perfect for a beach side cookout. Try it slightly chilled this summer with grilled fish, or better yet fish tacos, lamb burgers, sausages, briney foods like olives or feta, or with salads inflected with green herbs. Andy Paynter
Cannonau is surrounded by controversy about whether or not it is Grenache of Spanish origin or a Sardinian descendant of Grenache, i.e. a local grape (which is characteristically covered in much detail in Ian D’Agata’s The Native Grapes of Italy). Without wading into this frankly fascinating ampelographic morass, I can say that the Cardedu 2013 Cannonau is one the very best that I have tasted. The wine is produced from 15 year old vines planted in soils of sandy loam with decomposed pink granite. It is vinified in steel with native yeasts, and then rested in a mixture of old botti and cement before being bottled unfined and unfiltered. The nose is earthy with brambly berry fruit, rosemary, tobacco, and pressed violets. It is fairly rich on the palate with a soft texture, fine tannins, and lifting acidity showing more red fruit than the nose along with dried citrus peel, and dusty earth. I think it is a perfect match for roast pork or herbed lamb shoulder but would pair wonderfully with hard cheese like Pecorino Sardo, cured olives, fennel and citrus salad, or eggplant dishes. Andy Paynter