Friday, April 7, 2023

Sardinia's Top White Grapes: Vermentino and Nuragus

Sardinia, the 2nd largest island in Italy, is home to over 20 grapes that are native and unique to the island. Red grapes dominate the production with Cannonau leading the pack, but the white grape Vermentino also plays a key part in the makeup of Sardinia’s wine production. Both Cannonau and Vermentino account for about 40% of the island’s plantings. I tend to have highlighted Cannonau over the years, so I wanted to take a deeper look into Vermentino while also highlighting a native white grape Nuragus.  

The Grape - Vermentino 

Vermentino is the flagship white grape of Sardinia. It is genetically identical to other grapes in northern Italy including Pigato in the Liguria region and Favorita in Piedmont. This grape does well in Sardinia due to its proximity to the ocean with a warm and sunny climate. It’s a grape that is resistant to drought, which at times these grapes face in these conditions. 

Vermentino grapes in Sardinia
Sourced by Consorzio Tutela del Vermentino di Gallura

Vermentino shows its best expression in Gallura in the Sassari province in the northeast where its minerality is expressed. These wines typically have floral aromas with lively, refreshing acidity that have a textured body with notes of citrus and tropical flavors with hints of almond and herbs. You may be familiar with Vermentino grown throughout Italy including regions of Tuscany of Liguria, but Vermentino in Sardinia tends to have more intense flavors and structure.  

Vermentino di Gallura in Sardinia
Sourced by Consorzio Tutela del Vermentino di Gallura

There are a couple of appellations focused on Vermentino that you can find throughout the island. The most important is Vermentino di Gallura DOCG, which is the only DOCG on the island. This area covers the territory of Gallura. In Gallura, Vermentino grows in ideal granite soils that restrict yields, but don’t retain water well. The wines are made from at least 95% Vermentino. The other appellation where you will see Vermentino produced is under the Vermentino di Sardegna DOC, but this territory covers most of the island requiring a minimum of 85% Vermentino. 

The Grape – Nuragus 

Last week I featured the wines of Antonella Corda, who is one of the producers that works with the Nuragus grape. Nuragus is an ancient grape that is mostly located in central and southern Sardinia and is the 2nd most planted white grape on the island. It is named after a small town located in the hills between the capital Cagliari and Oristano. Also, throughout the island there are ancient buildings called nuraghe from the ancient Nuragic civilization.  

Nuragus is a grape that is best enjoyed in its youth. It contains delicate aromas, but lively acidity with vegetal, citrus and green apple notes. There is one appellation, Nuragus di Cagliari DOC, that spans a large territory producing wines with a minimum of 85% Nuragus that is crisp and fruity. 

Antonella Corda Nuragus grapes
Sourced from Antonella Corda's Nuragus grapes

What are your preferred grapes of Sardinia? 

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