For this week’s rare variety, I have an extraordinary Sardinian white wine to share with you. Nasco is a variety that dates back to ancient Roman times. A once highly regarded fine wine, which was cultivated extensively throughout the entire island of Sardinia until the middle of the last century. In fact, at the Vienna Universal Exhibition of 1873, Nasco was judged as one of the most prestigious wines of Sardinia.
Today, production is quite limited and mostly cultivated around the coasts of Cagliari in the south. You’ll also find some Nasco growing in the sunny central area of Mandrolisai. Nasco truly is an autochthonous Sardinian variety.
Genetic connections have been determined with the following Sardinian varieties, which share 50% or more alleles with Nasco.
- Codronisca (26 of 44 alleles shared)
- Retagliadu (25)
- Malaga (23)
- Claretta (22)
- Fiudedda (22)
- Muristellu (22)
- Ttunisi (22)
However, extensive genetic research has found no significant genetic relatives in Sardinia nor throughout Europe to determine a parental or familial connection. So, if you want to try Nasco, you just might have to come to this stunning Mediterranean island to get it. Don’t twist your arm, I know.
Nasco di Cagliari D.O.C.
Nasco’s geographic indication was established in 1972. This D.O.C.’s zones of cultivation include areas in the provinces of Cagliari and Oristano. In order to be labeled as Nasco di Cagliari D.O.C., the wine must be produced with a minimum of 95% Nasco grapes. A maximum of 5% other suitable varieties of Sardinian cultivation are permitted. The maximum grape yield for this geographic indication is 100 quintals/hectare.
The D.O.C. includes the following styles:
- Dry wine – requires a minimum of 14% alcohol
- Dry, fortified (liquoroso) wine – requires a minimum of 17.5% alcohol
- Fortified Reserve
A minimum 2-year aging period is required here, one of which must be in barrels for the Riserva style.
Nasco in the Vineyard
As previously mentioned, Nasco is mainly grown in Cagliari because this variety loves the sunny, chalky zones in the south. Vineyards are mainly cultivated using the albarello Sardo vine training method (i.e. bush trained), Nasco clusters are medium in size and length, and conical in shape with medium compactness.
Bud break kicks off the growing season in the first ten days of April followed by flowering in the last ten days of May. Veraison shows up in the vineyard typically in the beginning of August. Fruit tends to be mature and ready for harvest in the first ten days of September.
Nasco in the Glass
Nasco is an elegant wine with a dense, luscious texture that typically shows as a deep straw to warm topaz color in the glass. Expect low to medium acidity and high intensity aromatics of mature fruit, honey, dates, yellow flowers, and potentially tropical fruits. This variety has a trademark undertone of muskiness on the nose and on the finish, but not overwhelmingly so. Actually, the name Nascu (in Sardinian dialect) is derived from muscus meaning musk, which aptly describes the aromas found in especially matured examples.
- Clear medium straw yellow appearance
- Intense and harmonious perfume of yellow flowers, tropical fruits, and a touch of muskiness
- Dense on the palate with an intriguing texture from 60 days spent on the lees, plus barrel aging
- Soft and enveloping with a long persistent finish
- A bit sweet on the palate, but a beautiful expression of the variety
Nasco is an ideal pairing for seafood appetizers like tuna carpaccio with celery and citrus. Perfect with grilled fish or calamari. Artichoke risotto or grilled artichokes in a shallot dressing. Mint and potato culurgiones or ricotta ravioli.