Sardinia has piqued my interest as long as I can recall. It’s Italy, but different. Italian aside, the residents speak four distinct languages — influenced by Corsica in the north, and various Spanish dialects in the central and south. Culinary specialties include bottarga and lamb along with pristine Mediterranean seafood. And it looks like this, appealing to beach bums and rock climbers alike. Sardinia may also host my favorite episode of No Reservations.
Oh, and there is wine. Some really, really good wine. Along with too many Tre Bicchiere awards to list, one recent award for Sardinian standout Sella & Mosca stands above them all: The Gambero Rosso’s 2013 Winery of the Year.
Sella & Mosca has been around for a while. Founded in 1899 by two serendipitous Piemontese businessmen, they helped to save the world’s wine industry. While the European wine countries were being devastated by phylloxera, Sella & Mosca used their sandy soils and geographic isolation to house a nursery for new rootstocks. Many of the new plantings made their way to the south of France, Bordeaux, Spain and Italy.
Sella & Mosca’s flagship wine, Marchese di Villamarina, is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Knowing how the staunchly traditionalist mainland Italians felt about planting Cabernet Sauvignon, I figured there’s another Darmagi-like story here. Not so. Those vines in the nursery were largely Cabernet, so unlike the influx of international varietals in the latter 1900s in Piedmont and Tuscany, Cabernet has been a part of Sardinia for some time. The wine itself is tasty.
At a recent tasting, I was impressed with the 2004, 2005, and 2006 vintages of Marchese di Villamarina. All sported a concentrated dark color in their cores, a heft of savory herbs, and a mix of ripe and dried fruits, tart and sweet. They each seemed to have aged evenly, with perhaps five more years to go. A great pairing for a roasted Sardinian wild boar.
My favorite red of the tasting was the Terre Rare Carignano de Sulcis. From an appellation in Sardinia’s southwestern corner comes a varietal wine with a rusty, iron minerality coupled with dark fruits like plums, blackberries and prunes. The weight of the fruit was counteracted nicely by the minerality and a refreshing bright acidity. With a $15 SRP, it’s certainly worth seeking out.
The wine of the day, however, was a Sella & Mocsa exclusive. Terre Bianche is the only 100% Torbato in the world. Named after the white, chalky earth the grapes thrives on at the Sella & Mosca estate in Alghero this wine was unlike many I have ever tasted. The nose was bright and intense with citrusy notes of key lime, tangerine and tropical pineapple. Where this wine really shines is on the palate. The texture of the wine was waxy and broad with a slight grainy aspect. I don’t know if that had to do with Torbato’s fibrous nature but it yielded a texture reminiscent of Aussie Semillon. This wine could match any simply prepared seafood right out of the Sardinian waters (topped with bottarga please).
Sardinia is known to have one of the highest life-expectancies in the world. The locals cite their fresh cuisine, great weather, and stress-free lifestyle for this feat. Sounds like a place you might not leave once you get there.