Many are the wines, both white and red, produced from vineyards on the Campidano Plain (Nuragus, Barbera, Monica, Cannonau, Moscato), some of which are also excellent as appetizers (Vermentino, Vernaccia). The digestive liqueurs distilled from myrtle berries and su fil ‘e ferru, Sardinia’s brandy, so-called from the moonshiners’ trick of hiding their merchandise underground with a piece of wire coming to the surface to help them find it when the revenue officers were not in sight.
Monica, together with Cannonau, is the most common species of vine all over Sardinia. Its origins are rather uncertain, but the evidence seems to point to Spain, since it is often referred to as Mora di Spagna. This wine expresses all its productive exuberance in deep, moderately calcareous soils. The areas with gently sloping hills well oriented towards the sun appear to be the best places for the production of Monica grapes, which have a perfect balance of coloring and sugary substances. In the Monica vineyards we almost always find associations with other grape varieties (15%, 20%) which tend to exalt even more the fine characterization and value of this variety. Monica wine is best known for its suppleness, the delicacy of its flavor and a balanced alcoholometric strength, on the average between 11° and 12°. The D.O.C. (V.Q.P.R.D.) abbreviation has been assigned to two types:
- one decidedly a table wine denominated Monica di Sardegna;
the other, more full-bodied and stronger (minimum 13° alcohol) thanks to a slight drying of the grapes on the vine, denominated Monica di Cagliari.
Among Sardinia’s white wines, Nuragus is definitely the one produced in the largest quantity. The growing of this vine is concentrated prevalently in the provinces of Cagliari and Oristano. The origins of this important variety appear to be unknown, and this has led some to consider it native to the island, born from a few seeds near a nuraghe. In many places in Sardinia this grape is called “burda” (wild) in the local idiom. The massive diffusion of this vine is to be explained by its rusticity and resistance to many plant diseases, in the lateness of its vegetative revival, in its capacity to adapt to all kinds of soil and, most of all, to its abundant fructification. It is the grape that “winds up the harvest season” in Sardinia since it ripens after all the others. The finest quality Nuragus wines are appreciated as appetizers and as wine to accompany seafood. In the last few years it has also been used in the preparation of brut and demi sec sparkling wines (by harvesting the grapes before they are fully ripe). Considering its peculiar qualitative characteristics, this wine was recognized as a V.Q.P.R.D. wine as far back as 1975. Today, Nuragus di Cagliari V.Q.P.R.D. wine is bottled and sold by Sardinian producers on European and international markets with good success.
MALVASIA, NASCO, MOSCATO
These three wines strongly characterize Sardinian production of dessert wines and represent three pearls of the island’s wine production. The Malvasia vine grown in Sardinia is typically local and differs greatly from the many other Italian Malvasias. The growing of this variety is concentrated in two typical areas of production, the province of Nuoro, where it faces the sea on the western side of the island, with the Appellation d’Origine Controlee of Malvasia di Bosa, and the province of Cagliari, on lands to the southeast of the town of Cagliari, with the appellation of Malvasia di Cagliari. Recently these grapes, harvested before full ripening, go into the making of a pleasantly fragrant sparkling wine with a sweet taste. Nasco is perhaps the only grape truly native to the island. Its production is quite limited and concentrated prevalently in the areas with calcareous soils in the south of the province of Cagliari. Moscato, on the contrary, is grown all over the island, with three different V.Q.P.R.D. varieties: Moscato di Cagliari, Moscato di Sorso – Sennori and Moscato di Sardegna. The first two are characterized by a high alcohol content and a high percentage of natural sugars, while the third is a decidedly sweet sparkling wine, the sign of a Moscato with a good qualitative level.
Definitely of Spanish origin, the Giro’ vine became widespread in southern Sardinia in the first half of the 18th century, when the island was governed by the Piedmontese, who applied the directives for vineyards established in 1736 by the Marquis di Rivarolo. The production of this vine continued successfully up to the second half of the last century when, following the destruction of vineyards caused by a phylloxera epidemic, most vine-growers preferred other vines for use in replanting their vineyards since other varieties gave a higher yield and vinification was less difficult. Only after V.Q.P.R.D. recognition in 1979 was there a revival in interest of Sardinian vine-growers for this vine, which is capable of yielding a viscous wine of great elegance, competitive at the global level with the best-known wines with similar characteristics.
Where to stay in Cagliari
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