The intense aromas, tastes, flavours and colours of wines have been defining Sardinia for more than three millennia, as Sardinians were the first wine producers of the ancient Mediterranean area.
If the Phoenicians, the ancient biblical winemakers, arriving in the XI century B.C. instigated an authentic agricultural innovation in Nuragic Sardinia, many ancient grape varieties, such as Cannonau, Carignano and Vernaccia, were already diffused in these rugged coastal and inland areas.
Recent discoveries contribute to the unique history and tradition of Sardinian winemaking and demonstrate that vinification on the island dates back to the XV century B.C. Archaeologists, paleo-botanists and chemists agree that the most ancient wine production in the Mediterranean area happened in Sardinia more than three thousand years ago, as the most ancient Mediterranean winepress found in the Nuragic village of Mount Zara, near Monastir.
Other archaeological evidence, such as vine seeds found in a water well from the bronze age, has been discovered in the Cabras community of Oristano at the Nuragic site of “Sa Osa”; the oenological laboratories and fragments of winemaking equipment found there are quite similar to the ones utilized up to recent times, and the ancient vines are very similar to the ones cultivated nowadays: the wine produced at the time was similar to current ‘Cannonau’.
Indeed, a large number of grape varieties that were domesticated during the prehistoric and ancient times is still cultivated today. The so-called native grapevines are an authentic expression of the genius - loci - that is, the intrinsic quality of a place, its inhabitants, their lifestyle, and their traditions.
The production of Cannonau, a red grape variety present throughout Sardinia, is dedicated to the Cannonau di Sardegna DOC, made of 99% Cannonau grapes, while the remaining 1% comes from other local varieties.
This wine must age for at least one year before commercial release, and at least six months of this ageing period must be spent in barrels made of oak or chestnut.
The resulting ruby red colour, more or less intense, transforms into shades of orange with ageing.
The Vernaccia wine from the Oristano area is another Sardinian excellence, appreciated in the past by famous scholars and writers like Dante, Boccaccio, Shakespeare and Cervantes. Its grape variety, the ‘Vernaccia di Oristano’, has been present since antiquity in the province of Oristano, as is marked by its name; while its provenience is obscure, and it was believed for a long time that it was brought on the island by the Romans, it is most probably another native grape variety.
Such native wines are undeniable excellences, and their strong identity is ultimately seen as original expression of the territory’s natural, historical, and cultural environment. Thus, the many itineraries created to guide us to the discovery of these wines offer the fascinating opportunity of enjoying a novel, authentic experience through the valorisation of a millennial patrimony of knowledge.