Before coming to Sardinia, I told Marco I wanted to try as many varieties as possible while here. Italian varieties are so interesting and there are a ton! I was and am still dying to experience as many as possible. That being said, Marco planned for us to visit four wineries and have a group tasting with his winemaker friends within the first four days of my arrival in Sardinia.
For my first full day on the island, we relaxed and took it easy. We went to check out the wine his dad was making – Cannonau, Vermentino, and a rosé of Carignano del Sulcis. The rosato was my favorite!
Then we headed to the city center of Sassari to walk around and take espresso. Yes, you read that right, take espresso. We don’t have espresso, we take it. This is a thing in Europe!
The next day, Marco and I headed out to visit two wineries. We stopped at the supermercato on our way out to fortify ourselves to grab a panino. I forgot how much I love panini in Italy. The deli counter was impressive, housing all types of salame, pancetta, prosciutto, and mortadella. We both opted for a mortadella panino then hit the road for the short drive to Sorso to visit the first winery of the day.
Nuraghe Crabioni is a family owned and operated winery that’s been around for 10 years. The winery is situated amongst gorgeous vineyards in the Sorso territory with a view of the Mediterranean Sea in the near distance.
The property overlooks the Gulf of Asinara and is characterized by green rolling hills and vineyards. The Nuraghe Crabioni sits on the property, hence the winery’s name. Nuraghe are ancient stone structures from the time before Christ that are located all over Sardinia. The Nuraghe people built them as status symbols to mark different territories and the structures were compiled by strategically stacking stones on top of each other. However, the Nuraghe people are a bit of a mystery to Sardinia as they left behind no records of written word. So the Nuraghe structures are a bit of a mystery in and of themselves.
Upon arrival at Nuraghe Crabioni, we were warmly welcomed by the neighborhood’s German Shepherd puppy before heading inside for a tasting.
If you are going wine tasting in Sardinia, go with a local if possible. Most people don’t speak English here and you will find it easier to book a wine tasting if you know someone who works at the winery. Also, most wineries don’t have large tasting rooms like the wineries in America. So you can expect to taste wine in the winery, cellar, or at a table in the welcome area. Marco’s friend was previously the winemaker at Nuraghe Crabioni, so we had no trouble booking a tasting.
First, we were given a tour of the winery where the family produces around 6,500 cases of wine each year. Then we sat down for a tasting of six wines, though a pour for a “wine tasting” here in Sardinia is about half a glass. We tasted three different Vermentino, one Cannonau, one Cagnulari, and a Moscato di Sorso-Sennori.
- 2017 Vermentino di Sardegna D.O.C.– This was by far my favorite of the three Vermentinos. Very fresh with notes of white flowers and a crisp, delicate acidity. The acidity was somewhat tart, meaning there was likely some malic acid still present. A bit creamy and rounded on the palate with a long, lingering finish. You can taste the vineyard’s vicinity to to sea with some salty/saline notes in the wine.
- 2017 Kanimari Vermentino D.O.C. – Good acidity, but a softer acidity than the first. More fresh, fruity, and a bit more sweetness. Hint of vanilla and more round on the palate.
- 2017 Sussinku Vermentino Bianco Romangia I.G.T. – Though we were told this is 100% Vermentino, the flavors of the wine say otherwise. Likely Moscato included in the wine, too. Fruity with chalky minerals. Good aromatics, but light on acidity.
- 2017 Cannonau di Sardegna D.O.C. – This was my least favorite Cannonau I’ve tasted since arriving in Sardinia. The raspberry and spice notes were present, but this wine was light on the palate, had green tannins, and a bitter finish.
- 2016 Cagnulari Romangia I.G.T. – Very aromatic for a red wine with floral notes. Delicate and elegant. Sweet tannins with notes of chalky minerals and a rounded acidity. Loved this red wine!
- 2015 Moscato di Sorso-Sennori. D.O.C. – I was expecting this to be overly sweet, but the sweetness was light and refined. Ver aromatic with notes of apricots, citrus fruits, and honey.
Parpinello is a beautiful winery surrounded by vineyards and olive groves as far as the eye can see. The winery was established within the past 10 years and is run by Giampaolo Parpinello and his son. Giampaolo previously held a director position at Santa Maria La Palma, one of the most prominent wineries in Sardinia, and decided to start his own project with Parpinello. Marco’s friend is currently the winemaker at Parpinello, so we got a behind the scenes tour of the winery.
In the winery, we tasted most of the wines still in tank from the 2018 harvest. This included numerous Vermentino, Torbato, Cagnulari, and Cannonau. The Torbato was the most interesting for me. Again, a new variety to me, the Torbato in tank is intended for Parpinello’s sparkling wine production. I could see why because the Torbato had bright, racy acidity with incredible citrus and floral aromatics.
After touring the production area of the winery, we sat down in the tasting room with the winemaker and tasted through two sparkling Torbato, a Vermentino, a Cagnulari, and a Cannonau di Sardegna Riserva. We were having fun with Marco’s friend, so I didn’t take tasting notes. But my two favorites were the Cagnulari and Cannonau Riserva. The Cagnulari had beautiful notes of dried roses and violets with sweet tannins. The Cannonau Riserva was the boldest red I’ve tasted in Sardinia with notes of vanilla and spices from the time this wine spent aging in oak.
Cantina Della Vernaccia
On Friday we headed to Cantina della Vernaccia in Oristano, about 2 hours south from where Marco lives in Sassari. Cantina della Vernaccia is a cantina sociale, meaning the winery sources all of their fruit from an array of vineyards throughout the region. The cantina has no actual vineyards of its own. Founded in 1953, Cantina della Vernaccia is seriously impressive. Marco is friends with the winemaker at this cantina too, so we got to tour the winemaking facility. There are exactly 100 old concrete tanks in the winery which were previously used for the Vernaccia production, though they are not used today. My favorite part of this winery was the gorgeous artwork watching over the production area depicting the history of Vernaccia within Sardinian history.
We also were able to check out the barrel room where all of the Vernaccia is happily aging. Seeing the flor covering the wine in barrels was so cool! And the aromas already developing within the wine were amazing.
The cantina even has a self-fill station where people can come in and buy a few liters of wine if they wish!
While we didn’t taste through all of Cantina della Vernaccia’s wines, about 10 of Marco’s winemaker friends came to a winery for an organized tasting of wines they are currently working on. I tasted a few Vermentinos, two that were intended as a base for sparkling wine. One of the most interesting wines for me was made by the only female winemaker in the room. Her winery has a base for sparkling wine in production the majority of which was composed of the red variety Cannonau. The grapes were immediately pressed as they were intended for white vinification. This wine had bright acidity, more tart than not which I’m guessing is because of the presence of malic acid, with notes of green apple and sweet tarts. There was also a chalkiness to the wine that I loved. From the flavor profile and mouthfeel, I could definitely see how this wine will make an incredible bottle of bubbles.
One of my other favorites was the sparkling Is Arutas Vermentino di Sardegna produced by Cantina della Vernaccia. So different than any Vermentino or sparkling wine I’ve previously tasted. There were prominent herbal notes like thyme and rosemary with white pepper sprinkled on the long lingering finish. Loved this one!
Tasting wine with a group of winemakers was a valuable experience. Unfortunately for me, they all speak Italian and Sardo only so I could only understand a bit of what they were saying. This was also the first time I’ve sat in a group atmosphere getting to try amazing wines and not being able to express myself or my thoughts on the wine to others. That part sucked, but it was a good experience nonetheless.
My boyfriend, Marco, previously worked at Olianas so we had to visit since we were sort of in the area. About a 45 minute drive from where we stayed in Oristano, Olianas is in the middle of nowhere. But an absolutely beautiful middle of nowhere.
We walked through the winery tasting wines in tank from the 2018 harvest. Whoever was making the wine now decided to put oak sticks in some of the Vermentino tanks, which I did not agree with. The oak definitely overpowered the delicate aromatics of the Vermentino, though I could see this wine going over well with the American palate.
We also tasted Cannonau and Cagnulari, as well as a red blend. The Cannonau from the huge, old wine barrels larger than 500L was incredible. Raspberry, herbs, and sweet spices were prominent and the aging wine already had a full-bodied mouthfeel. Since Cannonau tends to be reductive, the variety does better aging in large oak barrels that can maximize micro-oxygenation while minimizing the amount of wine in contact with the oak. Thus, minimizing the amount of oak flavors and tannin imparted on the wine.
The coolest thing about Olianas was the use of amphorae. One of the most interesting wines I’ve tasted so far in Sardinia was the Semidano aging in amphorae. This old white Sardinian variety tasted of jasmine, fresh herbs, thyme, and artichokes. Very elegant on the palate, this is a wine that makes you stop and think. The Cannonau in amphorae was also incredible with more notes of mountain herbs, raspberry, soft tannins, and terra cotta. Very aromatic, elegant, and more refined than the Cannonau done in oak.
Olianas has a breathtaking view overlooking the valley. There is a lovely little tasting room for guests to try the wines and another self-serve station for those who want to stop by and purchase a liter or two.