Cannonau – Sardegna’s Red Wine as rich as the culture
An autochthon grape according to some, others say it is a local version of Granache imported from the hills of Spain. The discrepancy is born in who had the grape first. The Sards will say that it was Spain who took Cannonau to Spain during the Avalon period. The Spaniards will say that they brought the grape to Sardegna during their period of expansion. No matter where the truth lies, Cannonau invokes images of the Savage and beautiful island of Sardegna. Many northern Italians have a sense of fear of Cannonau. The common knowledge is that Cannonau is a strong wine not for the masses.
Perhaps the stereotype exists because most Cannonau is consumed on the island of Sardegna where the foods are flavorful and sometimes push the envelope of taste. My first experience was in Cagliari while working on a six month project for the local bank. Sardinians are extremely hospitable. During my stay I was never left to eat dinner alone. Top level management would take turns during the week taking me to local restaurants or dining in their home with the family. It was a full immersion experience into a world of extremes. Foods would include raw fish, snails, lamb, mountain goat, and incredible cheeses. It was my first experience sucking live snails out of their shells, accompanied by several bottles of Cannonau. I had always heard that Cannonau was a full bodied structured wine with a hell of a kick. Somehow with the snails, eel and baby fish marinated in vinegar the wine went down very smooth and easy.
The greatest pleasure was to see a 1.5 liter bottle of dark nectar appear on the table closed with a screw cap and no label or sticker written by hand with the year of the vintage. Each family had their own reserve hidden away in the cellar and they would share. Each wine was slightly different but perfectly matched to the basic tastes that the matriarchs made available on the elaborate tables.
Occasionally, on Friday or Saturday nights, when the morning after could be consumed sleeping, a bottle of white liquid would appear along with hard cookies and coffee. It was Grappa of Cannonau. I have never found the grappa outside of Sardegna but should it become available it is worth keeping a bottle to complete a Cannonau dinner.
Cannonau is not widely distributed outside of Sardegna. Even in Italy it is not common to find a selection of Cannonau available. Some restaurants specializing in Sardinian cooking will have a few bottles. Do not be afraid. It is the perfect compliment for the savory plates for which Sardegna is so famous.
Sella & Mosca 2004 Cannonau di Sardegna Riserva - Grenache Red Wine
Tags: Cannonau Sardegna Red Wine Italian Wine Sommelier Food and Wine Travel Italy