Despite being Italy’s second-largest island, Sardinia is a cipher compared to the country’s other 19 regions. Most of the wine produced on Sardinia was traditionally consumed on the spot, due in part to the island’s lackluster economy. While that has started to improve, it’s not easy for an Italian wine to compete on the international stage with Barolo, Barbaresco and Amarone, much less the tsunami of Pinot Grigio and Prosecco that has swamped the U.S. in recent years.
One of the problems with Sardinian wine is the unfamiliar group of native grape varieties: Torbato, Semidano, and Cagnulari are not exactly household words. Vermentino, the signature white wine grape, has largely gained fame by being produced on Antinori’s Guado al Tasso estate hundreds of miles away. And despite the fact that the best-known red variety, Cannonau (aka Grenache) is reputed to be loaded with antioxidants, it has yet to catch on with health-conscious Americans. Even so, there’s currently a renaissance of sorts occurring in Sardinian wine, as bottles from Sella & Mosca, Santadi, Argiolas and Jankara are turning up on our retail shelves.
Vigne Surrau is in the forefront of that renaissance. Founded in 2004 by the Demuro family, it has been described as “a young company with an old soul.” At the helm is Tino Demuro, who worked in his family’s vineyards as a child and came back to the land after running a successful construction business. Today, the winery owns 150 acres of vineyards in the prestigious Gallura appellation, near the pristine beaches of Costa Smeralda.
Limmizani 2020 ($18) is Surrau’s introduction to Vermentino. The bright, fresh nose reveals hints of stone fruit and almonds, along with mild saline notes. It is just as lively in the mouth, displaying bracing acidity, firm mineral accents, and expressive flavors of citrus zest. Their benchmark Vermentino di Gallura is 2019 Sciala ($23), made from a vineyard selection representing the best grapes of the harvest. It offers a captivating nose of spring flowers, lime blossom and citrus; on the palate, the wine is herbal, intense and complex, with a long and resonant finish.
Is Cannonau really healthier for you than other red wines? Experts claim it contains more flavonoids (a type of antioxidant) than any red other than the Sagrantino di Montelfaco of Umbria, but there’s no explanation of why it might be more beneficial than Grenache grown elsewhere. While it’s a fact that Sardinia is a recognized Blue Zone with an unusually high percentage of inhabitants living to age 100, there’s also no evidence that they attained their longevity by drinking Cannonau.
Surrau’s 2019 Naracu ($15) consists of 100% sustainably grown Cannonau, harvested from 20- year-old vines. The nose yields aromas of blackberries, anise, minerals and mint. In the mouth, this medium to full-bodied wine displays good acidity and flavors of mentholated black fruits, and gains in amplitude through the mid palate to the finish. 2019 Isola dei Nuraghi ($22) is a blend of 60% Carignano and 30% Cannonau, along with 10% of a local variety called Muristellu. With coaxing, the deeply recessed nose exhibits whiffs of molasses and prune. It is more expressive on the palate than it appears on the nose, filled with vivacious fruit tannins that frame persistent flavors of dark berries. Although no one can guarantee longevity as a result of drinking either of these, they are quality wines at a reasonable price.
Mark Spivak specializes in wine, spirits, food, restaurants and culinary travel. He is the author of several books on distilled spirits and the cocktail culture, as well as three novels. His latest release, Impeachment, is now available on Amazon.