Why Visit Cantina Berritta?
- The opportunity to see possibly the most beautiful vineyard landscape you’ve ever seen
- Seriously though, the vineyards are gorgeous
- You want to taste Cannonau from Dorgali, a completely different style than any other Cannonau on the island
- You would love to support a family business
- You want to drink wine with the hearty, convivial Sardinian whose name is on the bottle
The Winery: Cantina Berritta
Whether or not you’ve tasted Cannonau before, tasting Cannonau from Cantina Berritta is a must for all wine lovers because there is nothing else quite like it. Though Cannonau is not all Cantina Berritta has to offer. This winery has another stunner of a wine you can’t find anywhere else in the world, but we’ll get to that later. Founded in 2007, Cantina Berritta is a family owned and operated winery based in Dorgali, just under 10 km from the east coast of Sardinia in the province of Nuoro. At the helm of Cantina Berritta is Antonio, a spirited Sardinian man whose family has been cultivating olives and vineyards for generations.
When I say family owned and operated, I mean family owned and operated. Antonio and his wife, Maria Paola, along with their children Serena and Francesco, are all involved in the winery’s production and operation. Even the grandkids are getting in on the action! Upon our arrival at Cantina Berritta, we were greeted by these beautiful photos, which Antonio presented with a grin from ear to ear, “The CEO on the left, COO in the middle, and CFO on the right.”
Cantina Berritta cultivates around 10 hectares of vineyards tucked away in the valley of Oddoene in the gorgeous countryside of Dorgali. Around 75% of the vineyards are planted to Cannonau, the most planted variety in Sardinia and a native variety to Dorgali. The rest of the vineyards are planted to Syrah along with a white variety native to the area and only found in Dorgali called Panzale.
Traditionally, Panzale was used as a blending variety and never produced as a varietal wine. Antonio, with his passion for viticulture and enology, had a feeling that Panzale could stand beautifully on its own. Winery consultants and other winemakers told him that he couldn’t make varietal wine with Panzale. It just wouldn’t work. But Antonio went with his gut and produced a Panzale anyway. I am so happy and thankful that he did because I have never tasted a wine quite like Panzale. Plus, to have an incredible varietal wine that wine lovers can’t get anywhere else in the world…how cool is that?
All wines are vinified in Cantina Berritta, a small operation housed beneath one of the handful of grocery stores in the area also bearing the Berritta name. Antonio and his family produce around 22,000 bottles per year. Each wine undergoes a slow fermentation on indigenous yeasts to enhance the character provided by each individual vintage. Minimal intervention winemaking practices help to preserve the strong territorial profile of Cantina Berritta wines. The various Cannonau of Cantina Berritta are each vinified differently. One is produced only in stainless steel, offering a more fruit forward, youthful version of Cannoau. Another spends time in both stainless steel and larger barrels, while the Classico sees a longer aging period in a mixture of large and small oak barrels.
The passion and dedication of Antonio and his family can be felt in both the vineyards and the winery, and most importantly tasted in the wines.
The Tasting Experience At Cantina Berritta
We were lucky enough to be hosted by Antonio on a late, rainy Sunday morning because his grandmother is the cousin of our friend Carla’s dad’s grandmother, aka Carla’s great grandmother. Or something like that. Read it twice if you have to, but the family ties are extensive, strong, and respected here in Sardinia. So, Carla had her dad call in the favor and hook us up. Though I get the feeling that Antonio would be happy to host anyone in the same way he warmly welcomed us.
We met Antonio behind the Berritta grocery store and hopped in the back of his SUV to head to the vineyards. Upon discovering that I was from California and the only non-Sardinian in the car, Antonio asked if I speak Italian. To which I replied, “Si, parlo un po” (Yes, I speak a little). To which he jokingly replied, “Anch’io.” (Me too), as he tends to mostly speak Sardo like so many others on the island
As we drove out to the Oddoene Valley where Antonio’s vineyards are planted, the rain drizzling down, we noticed an interesting agricultural concept. Some plots of land were planted with a row of olive trees, then a row of vines, a row of olive trees, and then a row of vines. Antonio explained that when WII ended, the established general in this area gave one hectare of land to each of the poorest families in the region. Those families maximized the land and the potential profit they could make by diversifying their plantings in this way.
Entering Oddoene Valley, we were all struck by the magnificent beauty of the area. Even on a cloudy, rainy day, the landscape was stunning. Antonio unlocked the gates to his property and drove us through the rolling hills of his magnificent vineyards, leaves on the vines alive with the colors of autumn. Mountains surround the vineyards on all sides and on this day, as the sun was peaking in and out of the heavy cloud cover, wispy clouds lingered across the tops of the mountain peaks.
Arriving at an old cantina in the center of Antonio’s property, we parked under a giant acorn tree and hopped out of the car to snag some photos. Antonio explained these Cannonau vineyards are over 30 years old and planted on mostly granite-based soils. Though inn some areas of the valley, limestone is also prevalent along with volcanic soils at higher elevations. I would love to visit on a sunny day when it’s possible to take better photos because these photos don’t do the valley justice. As the rain started to pour down again, we scrambled back into Antonio’s car and were on our way to the winery to drink his wines. I couldn’t help but think that wines cultivated in this beautiful environment with such love and dedication as Antonio possessed were bound to be spectacular. And I was right!
Parking back behind the grocery store, we walked down a concrete ramp to a sort of subterranean level below the store where Cantina Berritta is housed. A stack of giant, red bins and a large basket press greeted us at the entrance. We rounded the corner and entered the winery to discover an organized room full of small, stainless steel tanks, and a few barrels. The charmingly simple cellar made it all the more evident that Cantina Berritta produces wines with the utmost care and respect for what each vintage offers.
Following a brief stroll through the cellar, we parked ourselves around a wooden table feeling thirsty. Antonio asked if we’d like to taste all of the wines, to which we, of course, replied with an enthusiastic yes! We started with Panzale and the rosato, then worked our way through the reds. As we emphatically described what we loved about each, the aromas, and flavors, every so often Antonio would simply ask, “Ti piace?” (Do you like it?) I jokingly turned to him once, as we were sipping on one of the Cannonau, and asked the same of him. To which he replied, albeit in Italian, “Yes, I like this wine. But I don’t need all of the descriptors and analysis. For me it’s simple. Either I like the wine, or I don’t.”
At one point, we were so caught up in discussing the wine that I was falling behind in the tasting. Antonio looked at me with a twinkle in his eye and said, “Bibe como.” Drink now in Sardo.
I can promise you, if you get your hands on a bottle of Cantina Berritta, you will definitely like the wine, and no one will have to tell you to drink twice!
Panzale, I.G.T. Isola dei Nuraghi 2018
- Panzale is a variety only grown in Dorgali, Sardegna
- Unlike any white wine I’ve ever had before (we bought two bottles)
- A beautiful, brilliant pale yellow
- Aromas and flavors of apples, pears, salinity, and minerality
- A bit of skin contact provides more body, texture, and very delicate tannins
- Medium bodied and a distinctive freshness with great acidity
- Focused on the palate with a persistent finish and lingering notes of almond
- The Panzale vines are over 25 years old and planted to granite soils
- For processing, the fruit was chilled to 5-6°C then pressed and transferred to steel tanks for fermentation on the skins for 12-18 hours at 18°C, fermented dry
- This wine saw stainless steel for 5 months, then in bottle for 1 month prior to release
Marinu, Cannonau di Sardegna D.O.C. 2018
- Rosato of 100% Cannonau from 40-year-old vineyards
- A beautiful pale pink with shades of coral
- Elegant bouquet of peach, almond, and fresh roses along with a touch of minerality
- Balanced acidity, vivid on the palate with a lightly fruity finish
- The perfect rosato for sipping seaside or a wine to serve alongside a meal
- 12-hour maceration on the skins before pressing
- Fermented in stainless steel tanks for 20 days at 18°C until dry
Don Baddone, I.G.T. Isola dei Nuraghi 2016
- 50% Cannonau, 50% Syrah
- A juicy red wine with a deep, ruby color
- Aromas and flavors of baking spices, mature red and blue fruits, and spicy oak with fine grain tannins
- The Cannonau and Syrah are each vinified separately, though both are fermented on the skins for 20 days in large, wooden vats with daily punch downs
- Following fermentation, the wine is transferred to wooden barrels where it undergoes malolactic fermentation
- The wines are blended before bottling and given at least a month to rest before being released
Thurcalesu, Cannonau di Sardegna D.O.C. 2016
- 100% Cannonau from 40-year-old vines
- Brilliant, red color with ruby red hues
- Aromas and flavors of raspberries and sweet, mature red fruits along with hints of fresh herbs and black pepper
- Medium-bodied with an elegant structure, refined tannins, and a silky finish
- Fermentation in stainless steel tanks for 15 days with daily punch downs, then in 10 hl barrels for 10 months followed by 3 months in bottle before release
Montetundu, Cannonau di Sardegna D.O.C. Classico 2015
- 100% Cannonau from vineyards ranging from 40 to 50 years old
- This wine is definitely my favorite
- Medium-bodied, complex, and exquisite
- Deep, ruby with violet hues
- Notes of luscious black cherries, raspberries, juicy red fruits, and herbs along with a spicy complexity and sweet, silky tannins
- Fruit from the winery’s oldest vineyards undergoes alcoholic fermentation for 25-30 days in stainless steel tanks with daily punch downs
- When fermentation is finished, the wine is aged in large wooden barrels with weekly battonage on the lees until spontaneous malolactic fermentation is complete
- 8 months in stainless steel, 18 months in 10hl barrels, and 6 months in bottle before release
The Territory and Climate of Dorgali
Dorgali is a classic region for Cannonau and for around 3,500 years the region has abounded with vineyards. Located between mountains and sea, throughout the region you will find large valleys, plateaus, and terraced slopes from the Supremonte to the Gulf of Orosei. The village of Dorgali is located on a spectacular cliffside overlooking a gorgeous valley. Vineyards throughout the region are trained in both the classic “albarello” method, or bush-trained, as well as trained in the Guyot method. Soils vary throughout the region. In Oddoene Valley, you’ll find sandy, granite-based soils and some limestone. As you travel up to relatively higher elevations, there are basalt, volcanic-based soils.
Cala Gonone is a beach town along the east coast of Sardinia on the opposite side of the mountain range protecting Oddoene Valley from the sea. There is a maritime influence in this zone, as the sea is just 8 km away. The cooler air from the sea climbs over the mountain range and settles over the valley, trapped by the mountains. Days are very hot during the summer in the valley, but the temperature drops significantly at night due to the surrounding mountains. This diurnal temperature difference is ideal for grape growing as hot days ripen the fruit and enhance phenolic characteristics, while the cooler nights slow the ripening process and preserve acidity.
Compared to the Cannonau I tasted in Mammoaida and Orgosolo, two other regions recognized as classic zones for Cannonau production, the Dorgalese Cannonau definitely has more depth and complexity. There’s something distinctly unique about the Cannonau from Dorgali that is hard to put your finger on. Well, I can’t speak for all Cannonau from Dorgali, but I can speak for that produced by Cantina Berritta. And if I had to describe Cantina Berritta’s Cannonau in one word, that word would be exquisite.