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Richard Mark James' wine and travel blog

13 February 2013

World Grenache Competition part 3 - Sardinia: Cannonau di Sardegna

Enzo Biondo's book on Cannonau
The third thrilling installment of my 'World Grenache Competition' coverage brings us back to Sardinia featuring my pick of the Cannonau (= Grenache) di Sardegna reds we tasted in the competition, along with a few succinct nuggets and couple more older Cannonaus plucked from a presentation given in the afternoon. Any medals awarded are stated in brackets, and/or my own 100-point style scores come afterwards (for wines tasted blind in the competition at least). You'll find Part 1 with a bit of background and comment on the competition below this post and Part 2 on my French Med blog, which focuses on the Roussillon and Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
Part 4: Spain, Garnacha/Garnatxa...

Cannonau di Sardegna DOC
Something of a mostly enjoyable voyage of discovery for me, this flight of Sardinian reds received my most extreme scores, the highest and lowest of the three flights we tasted! My top scoring five on our table were:
Sartiglia 2011 Azienda Vinicola Attilio Contini (Trophy winner) - hints of maturing tobacco notes vs 'sweet' and peppery aromas, lovely blackberry and liquorice; concentrated and grippy palate, powerful with tight long finish; classy wine, needs time to develop. 93. Roberson Wine in London has the 09 vintage of this for £10.95.
Olianas 2011 Societa Agricola Olianas (Gold) - attractive nose, lively and spicy with lots of dark fruits; very concentrated with nice tannins and a touch of freshness too, lovely lingering rich peppery flavours with good balance and style. 92
Tuvara 2006 Vitivinicola Alberto Loi, Isola dei Nuraghi (Silver) - enticing developed meaty nose with dried cherries and tobacco tones, concentrated with nice rounded tannins, quite mature with a touch of class. 90

Su'entu 2011 Societa Agricola Varoni - aromatic sweet plum and liquorice, peppery vs savoury vs ripe with attractive lingering meaty fruit, fairly restrained and tight on its long finish. 90
Chio Riserva 2008 Cantina Il Nuraghe-Mogoro (Silver) - lifted peppery nose with nice sweet liquorice fruit, quite soft palate vs a bit of punch, still quite structured though with fairly complex finish. 87

And these two older wines were shown as part of a presentation on the island's big-gun red (get it, ho ho?) by Enzo Biondo (winemaker and author of 'Cannonau Mito mediterraneo', pic. top) and Mariano Murru (winemaker at the Argiolas co-op winery):
2007 Riserva Nepente di Oliena Cantina Oliena (15% alc.) (their 2010 non-Riserva won a Silver medal) - very ripe 'sweet' fruit with floral and kirsch tones, 'volatile' maturing edges; savoury leather notes vs 'sweet' dried fruits, dry tannins but not drying, tasty developing finish, a tad cider-y perhaps but good in that old-fashioned 'volatile' way.
The northeastern part of Sardinia boasts about 70% of Cannonau/Grenache production, and most of it is concentrated in the Nuoro region a little inland from the east coast, where this wine is comes from. The whole island is made up of over 80% hills and mountains by the way. Here the variety is planted on old bush vines, and the wine sees traditional ageing in large old tuns. Oliena itself has the biggest surface area of Grenache planted at 668 ha/1650 acres (along with star white variety Vermentino): "You hardly find it anywhere else in Italy," Enzo continued, "and I prefer it as 100% of the wine here. It gives less colour but I like all those ripe Mediterranean flavours." So do I Enzo. He also said that picking dates are tricky in this neck of the woods, as ripening isn't even across all the different zones.
Mariano showed us the 1997 Turriga from the Serdiana co-op in the south of the island, found a little north of Cagliari on "slightly west-facing vineyards at 140 metres altitude...  we don't get many bunches per vine here." Cannonau/Grenache is often blended here with Malvasia Nera, Carignan and Bovale Sardo (I think he said the latter is the same as Mourvedre, but it's a clone of Bobal according to Jancis Robinson's guide?). This wine was very ripe and savoury with sweet dark fruit and soft palate, mature with earthy edges; a bit past its best perhaps but interesting nevertheless. The 2008 vintage of Turriga won a Gold medal.

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