If you’re ready to venture off-the-beaten-path in the world of wine, then you’ve landed in the right place. Out of all the rare varieties I’ve covered over the last few years, this must be one of the rarest. Coincidentally, it’s also one of my favorites. Maybe because the white grape variety is native to the Mediterranean island where my husband is from. Or perhaps because I tasted it for the first time with the sole winemaker himself in the stunning Valle di Oddoene. But most likely it’s because Panzale wines really are just that good. At least those by Cantina Berritta are anyway. Let’s learn more about this once nearly extinct variety.
Where is Panzale from?
Panzale is a rare white variety indigenous to the Italian island of Sardinia. Specifically, it’s native to Dorgali, one of my favorite areas of the island. Located along the central east coast of Sardinia, Dorgali is situated between the sea and the Supramonte di Dorgali, a massive albeit breathtakingly beautiful mountain range. The Oddoene Valley, where the majority of Panzale is planted, is moderated by the coastal influence during summer heat. Consequently, white varieties like Panzale are able to fully mature throughout the growing season while maintaining bright acidity thanks to the cooling influence of the nearby sea. Soils here consist predominantly of limestone and granite, yielding wines with freshness and mineral qualities.
Traditionally, Panzale was used as a blending variety and never produced as a single varietal wine. That all changed when passionate winemaker Antonio Berritta of Cantina Berritta recognized the potential of this indigenous Sardinian variety. His instincts told him Panzale could stand beautifully on its own. Though other winemakers and consultants did not agree. Luckily for wine enthusiasts like us, Antonio trusted his gut. Thanks to the Berritta family, Panzale went from practically extinct to a gem of the Dorgali terroir. I’m pretty sure as of this writing, Cantina Berritta is still the only Sardinian winery producing a single varietal Panzale.
To my knowledge, this wine is not currently available in the United States. But that’s something I’m hoping to change soon enough.
Panzale Wine Tasting Profile
Panzale is a medium-to-full bodied white wine with vibrant, well-balanced acidity. This Italian white wine brims with aromas of mandarin orange, Meyer lemon, apricot, and subtle notes of dried herbs, fresh almonds, and a flinty mineral quality. It’s hard to compare it to other wines because Panzale is so unique. Under the skilled viticulture and winemaking of Berritta, the variety yields wines that are elegant and complex.
Upon my last trip to Sardinia in 2023, I discovered that Panzale ages wonderfully. After 5+ years in bottle, this wine exhibits more petrol-like aromas with hints of mushrooms almost reminiscent of an aged Riesling.
Wine Pairing Recommendations
Panzale is an ideal wine for practically any occasion. It’s approachable enough to be savored on its own as an everyday glass or opened for a casual get together with friends. Yet this wine is of such high quality that it can be served for more formal occasions, especially aged examples.
Try pairing Panzale with oven roasted chicken with oranges and olives, grilled sea bass stuffed with fresh herbs, garlic, and juicy tomatoes, butter basted scallops with herb risotto, or spaghetti with clams and bottarga. This Sardinian wine has the aromatics and brightness to complement fresh herbs and seafood, with the richness to stand up to heartier white meats and fatty fish. Though it’s just as delicious enjoyed on its own or with some salty green olives.
I hope you get the chance to taste Panzale soon because it’s truly one of a kind. Though for now, you’ll have to head to Sardinia to experience this rare variety and the magic of Dorgali where it’s grown. See you there!