Sardinian wines deserve way more attention than they have received so far.
Sardinia is an idyllic Italian island in the Mediterranean Sea that boasts more than 2,000 kilometers of coastline and plentiful craggy mountains. The combination of a rough and rugged interior landscape and oceanic elements in the soil produce truly astonishing wine.
Sardinia itself is home to a wide variety of native grapes, from the Nuragus to Cannonau to Vermentino. Whether you’re a fan of rich reds or delicate whites, you’re in for a real treat when it comes to Sardinian wines.
Ready to deep dive into the marvelous wines of Sardinia? In this post, I will cover the best wines of Sardinia, broken down varietal by varietal.
The Most Famous Sardinian Wines
Cannonau – also called Cannonau di Sardegna – is the local name for Grenache. It is Sardinia’s signature red wine. In fact, one in every five bottles of Sardinian wine is a Cannonau. Moreover, it is the most planted variety in Sardinia, totaling around 30 percent of all the grapes grown on the island.
Recently, it has been evidenced that the Grenache varietal may have actually originated on Sardinia soil. Now that’s quite a claim to fame!
Arguably, the most exquisite bottles of Cannonau are found in the eastern section of the island, in the provinces of Cagliari, Ogliastra, and Nuoro. That being said, Cannonau grapes are grown all over the island.
If you’re curious about the flavor profile, Cannonau wine generally has a low acidity level and high alcohol content. The flavors can range from charmingly fruity to dark, rich, and structured with spicy earthiness.
You simply must try the Pala 2013 Riserva bottle of Cannonau Sardegna. Expect flavors of sun-dappled ripe raspberries blended with cooking spices like anise and pepper. The generous, velvety tannins will forge new flavor pathways on your palate.
I would also like to recommend a glass of Contini 2014 Sartiglia Cannonau. This richly round wine is constructed with notes of wild herbs, cherries, and blackberries. Expect genuinely smooth tannins that lead to a significantly pleasurable drinking experience.
Vermentino is the celebrated classic white wine of Sardinia. It has been grown for centuries in the northern tip of the island in the Gallura province. Nowadays, it can be found throughout the entire island of Sardinia; however, one of the most beloved Sardinian wines is the Vermentino di Gallura, grown in Gallura itself.
Blessedly, Vermentino does not have the sharp, zingy acidity that usually comes to mind when you think of Italian white wines. Don’t be fooled, though; you will certainly encounter a level of refreshing acidity. This variety of Sardinian wine is dry and full-bodied. When you sip a glass, you taste a hint of the sea. Known for a kiss of saltiness, expect some saline minerality and notes of lemon, white flowers, and almond to land like feathers on your tongue.
The family-run wineries like Capichera and Mudra produce high-quality Vermentino. However, my heart lies with the Vigne Surrau 2014 Sciala Superiore, a Vermentino di Gallura. It’s a creamy wine that is perfectly balanced by the saline minerality and congenial acidity.
If you’d rather go for an option that sits under $20 a bottle, you should go with the Piero Mancini 2014. It’s another Vermentino di Gallura, and one of the most highly-rated Sardinian wines. It’s a more juicy, fruit-forward wine that carries notes of peach and apricot.
Nuragus is grown in the south of Sardinia, primarily in the Cagliari province. This is one of the lesser-known varieties of Sardinian wine as only a small quantity is exported each year, mainly to mainland Italy! Germany, France, and the United Kingdom receive a small number of exports as well, and the amount sent over to the USA? Tiny. To top it off, the Nuragus grape varietal isn’t planted anywhere else on earth! So this truly is one of the Sardinian wines you need to try when on the island.d
Back to the reason we’re here— Nuragus. This wine is dry, light-bodied, and highly approachable, even though it does have a certain level of marked acidity. It’s the perfect patio wine, with notes of citrus fruit, green apples, and a mild zesty taste.
Most of the best Nuragus di Cagliari wine won’t even touch $15 a bottle. Nuragus aren’t meant to be aged. They aren’t meant to be chilled either; it will mute the wine’s flavors and make it taste quite bland.
Try the renowned winery, Argiolas, S’Elegas Nuragus di Cagliari to float away on notes of melon, pear, and honey. It is a soft, dry wine that has a high alcohol content.
The Cantine di Dolianova Perlas Nuragus di Cagliari is a well-balanced Nuragus that I’m sure you’ll find highly pleasing. Expect delicate nuances of ripe apple and white flowers.
Carignano del Sulcis
Carignano del Sulcis is a Sardinian wine cultivated in the south-western corner of the island. The wine is predominantly grown in the province of Sulcis and Carbonia-Iglesias; however, it spreads into the provinces of Cagliari and Teulada. For the sake of clarity, Carignano is the grape and Sulcis is the region— ergo the name Carignano del Sulcis!
Carignano del Sulcis is a red or rosé wine. It’s worth noting that the rosé form of this wine usually has an alcoholic strength of just 11%, which is considerably lower than other international rosé wines.
Generally light to medium-bodied, Carignano del Sulcis is an earnest and good-natured wine. Its flavors are gentle with modest tannins.
A must-try is Cantina Mesa’s 2013 Buio. It’s a straightforward wine that leads with notes of cranberry, cherry, and basaltic. It has elegant tannins and a whisper of floral blossoms.
One of the more powerful bottles is Cantina Santadi’s Terre Brune. It’s a riserva wine aged in barrique and is an intense garnet color. It carries lusty notes of dark marasca cherries and a whiff of clove.
Bovale is a Sardinian wine that actually has 24 different names thanks to the different varieties of the Sardinian language spoken in Sardinia. Regardless, this variety is most often labeled as Bovale or Muristellu, which is the most commonly used Sardinian term for the grape variety.
Interestingly, the Bovale variety is one of the very few grape varieties in the entire world to have a distinctive genetic similarity to wild grapevines. Despite its somewhat wild nature, Bovale is best described as a friendly wine. It’s smooth and not overly complex. That being said, Bovale grapes have a thick skin, which affords this Sardinian wine a well-balanced and grateful tannic structure for this medium-bodied red wine.
When buying a bottle of Bovale, keep in mind that Bovale does best when aged for a few years. On the palate, you’ll notice medium acidity and aromas of blue and red berries. Bovale is grown throughout the island of Sardinia; however, it is mainly grown in the Mandrolisai area, in Nuoro.
Enjoy the rich La Giara, Bovale Isola Dei Nuraghi from 2016. This wine has great depth and pronounced floral and fruit notes.
However, the real Bovale star is the Pala Essentija Bovale. Be warned; this wine is difficult to find! It’s an earthy red wine that has aromas of leather and soil. Truly, it is an exceptional red wine that will leave you, perhaps, breathless.
Malvasia is a breezy white Sardinian wine. Be that as it may, Malvasia is actually the name of several grape varieties, including both red and white! In France, these grapes go by the name of Malvoisie. However, in regards to the Malvasia Sardinian wine, the grape is white.
The Malvasia di Bosa is one of the rarest Sardinian wines. Even if you are in Sardinia, you’ll likely not find a bottle at the first wine shop you pass by. Maybe not even at the second or third!
Grown in the region of Bosa, the Malvasia di Bosa can be either dry or sweet. Yet it is a wine that brims with romance, delivering languid notes of honeysuckles and almond.
If you can get your hands on a bottle of Giovanni Battista Columbu, Malvasia di Bosa Riserva count yourself lucky. The bouquet is intense and persistent, and the aroma is wonderfully nutty. This golden wine is a true delight!
Grown on Sardinia’s west coast around Oristano, this sherry-like fortified white wine is a truly unique Sardinian wine. It’s an oxidative white wine aged for between three to four years in barrels. When it comes to this wine, the older the better. The complexities of Vernaccia only deepen over time until you get lost in an enigma of umami flavors that will leave you dazed and confused — and completely elated. Hello, cloud nine!
In fact, Vernaccia wine is actually ranked among the best wine in the world. Yet it’s nearly impossible to encounter a bottle of Vernaccia outside of Italy!
That being said, Vernaccia is a full-bodied white wine with high alcohol content ranging from 15 to 19%. When drinking a young Vernaccia, you can expect to encounter musty and nutty aromas.
The Silvio Carta, Vernaccia Di Oristano Riserva is the bottle to try. If you can find an old bottle from the 1960s or 1970s, you’re in for the ride of your life! However, you’re more likely to encounter bottles from the early 2000s, which are still masterful. This wine has exceptional structure and flavors of chestnuts, butter, and orange peel.
Another profoundly outstanding bottle to try is the Contini, Vernaccia Di Oristano Riserva. Their wine is aged for 15 to 20 years in chestnut and oak barrels and gives off complex nutty and caramel notes.
Torbato is an ancient white variety that is exclusively grown in the northwest of Sardinia. This rare grape has been revived largely thanks to the wine estate Sella e Mosca. Thus, it’s one of the rarest Sardinian wines to encounter.
The Torbato is a crisp and dry white wine with nice minerality. With modest aging, creaminess and richness will develop.
I would like to recommend Sella and Mosca’s Bianche Torbato from 2014. The wine will appear a deep lemony gold color, and your palate will brush up against traces of pears and flint. The finishing sensation is uniquely chalky, with a hint of salinity.
Sella and Mosca’s 2005 Bianche Torbato has a lot more personality. Beseeching you with intense aromas of honey and nuts, this wine will dazzle you.
Cultivated in Sardinia’s northwestern quarter, strongly associated with the territory of Usini, Cagnulari is one of the lesser-known grape varieties in Sardinia and yet one of the best Sardinian wines.
Ruby-hued red, the Cagnulari wine was actually revitalized by Giovanni Cherchi, who brought these ancient, native grapes back to the fore. Therefore, the vineyards and winery Vinicola Cherchi is synonymous with Cagnulari wine. Hand-harvested and gently crushed, this winery lovingly crafts their wine— bottle by bottle.
Cagnulari wine is medium-bodied and has hearty and ample tannins. There are notes of plums, cherries, and raspberries laced through every drop. The bold fruit sensations are complemented by a brisk minerality and some aromas of herbs.
Try a bottle of 2016 Azienda Vinicola Cherchi Isola dei Nuraghi Cagnulari and bask in the vibrant ruby color before you sip this divine dark-fruited wine. Slightly dusty with winks of minerality, Cagnulari is a one-of-a-kind exclusive and elusive wine.
Final Thoughts On Sardinian Wine
The ones mentioned in this post are only some of the best Sardinian wines, and of the many grapes found on the island. Another one I am fond of is Monica, and the one at Cantine Audarya in Serdiana is definitely one of the best bottles you can get your hands on.
For a prize winning Sardinian wine, make sure to invest on a bottle of Turriga. Produced by the Argiolas winery of Serdiana (the same of S’Elegas, by the way), this wonderful wine is a blend of 85% Cannonau and 5% each of Bovale Sardo, Malvasia Nera and Carignano. Expect to pay $40 a bottle – but I promise you won’t regret it.
While the idyllic island of Sardinia might often be regarded as a beach vacation spot, it really is quite the haven for delectable Italian wine. With so many native varieties carefully cultivated and kept in existence with a rare level of earnestness, Sardinia is truly a magical place for wine.
Whether you are planning a trip to Sardinia or planning on ordering your next case of wine, I hope this article illuminated you on the best Sardinian wines out there. I have a certain level of reverence for Sardinian wines, and I hope that it has shown through – and perhaps, that it lit a little spark in you.
Where and when to enjoy Sardinian wines
If you plan to visit Sardinia, you may want to go on a wine tasting tour to get a better understanding of Sardinian wines and how they are produced. Many wineries now offer wine tasting experiences where you’ll be also let into the history of the family and the vineyard. The best wine tours are at Cantine Argiolas in Serdiana, in Southern Sardinia, and the nearby Cantine Pala. If you find yourself near Alghero, you should consider visiting Sella e Mosca.
If you want to book your wine tasting experience online, you can consider this one here.
Make sure to read my post “The Most Incredible Day Trips From Cagliari.”
Another good thing to keep in mind is that wine festivals are quite a thing in Sardinia! If you visit in May, make sure to attend Cantine Aperte in Serdiana for a weekend of winery-hopping. Calici Sotto Le Stelle in Jerzu takes place each August and the Sagra del Vino Novello (new wine) of San Vero Milis, in the province of Oristano, is one of the most popular festivals in the region.
Cheers! Or should I say— Alla vostra salute!
Further readings about Sardinia
For more readings about Sardinia, make sure to check my other posts:
- Where Is Sardinia?
- The 15 Best Beaches In Sardinia
- 10 Absolutely Unmissable Things To Do In Sardinia
- The Most Delicious Sardinian Food: Everything You Must Try
- How To Prepare Malloreddus Alla Campidanese (Gnocchetti Sardi)
- 15 Incredible Things To Do In Cagliari
- What To See And Do In Alghero Sardinia
- What To See And Do In Bosa Sardinia
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