It is rumored that the longevity of the Sardinian people is due to the high concentrations of resveratrol in their wine.
Resveratrol is a polyphenol found in the skins of grapes, blueberries and raspberries. While there are other food sources that contain this antioxidant, red wine contains high concentrations. It is true that the Sardinians live in a Blue Zone, but it has yet to be determined if their wine is responsible for the island’s elevated amount of centenarians. Perhaps, it’s best to pour yourself another glass just in case.
Sardinia is the second largest island in the Mediterranean Sea behind Sicily, both of which are part of Italy. Over the course of history, the island has been governed by the Phoenicians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs and Catalans. Interestingly, Sardinian wine actually has more in common with that of its Spanish and French neighbors to the west and north than it does with Italian wine. The island’s dominant Spanish and French grape varieties include Cannonau (garnacha or grenache), Carignano (carignan) and Boval (bobal), all of which produce red wine. Vermentino and malvasia are the most prevalent white grape varietals.
Since the 1990s, total production on the island has been reduced by 75 percent. Thankfully, over the past 20 years, this reduction in production has also resulted in lower-yielding vines and higher-quality wine. The island is suitable for quality wine because of its hilly landscape, soils and climate.
The dominant white wines of the island, vermentino and malvasia, are both capable of producing delightful wines in a range of styles from sweet to dry. Vermentino is picked early in order to retain the grape’s vibrant and fresh acidity, which makes for delightfully aromatic, youthful, refreshing wines with citrus notes and flower blossoms. These wines are very affordable and pleasing – excellent as afternoon quaffers or with seafood, salads and light cheeses. Prices start at $15.
Malvasia is produced in all styles, ranging from dry to sweet dessert wines and even fortified wines. Because of the range of styles, this varietal can be challenging for some palates. The young and dry style are ripe, fruity and easy, while the matured versions offer notes of almonds and are similar to a dry sherry. Prices start at $15 and can quickly jump in cost depending on the style in which the wine is made.
The island’s most common and renowned wine is the Cannanau di Sardegna. As with all regions, there are a wide range of styles, ranging from deep, dense and rich to light and delicate. The fuller style is characterized by notes of dark spice, black licorice, blackberries and toasty oak. The lighter style displays notes of raspberries, licorice, violets and red currants. Both styles contain high concentrations of resveratrol. Similar to cannonau, plantings of carignano and boval can come in similar styles of big and rich or light and delicate. However, these two particular wines are difficult to find because of their far fewer plantings.
Overall, the wines of Sardinia are interesting and can be a fun discovery at an affordable price. For the reds, if you prefer Spanish or southern French wines, then the richer, fuller style may suit best. If you prefer Italian reds, then the lighter, more vibrant style may fit best.
Either way, you can feel comfortable knowing that you too may live to see 100 if you consume enough Sardinian wine.
Alan Cuenca is an accredited oenophile and owner of Put a Cork in It, a Durango wine store. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.