While you can pair whatever food you want with your wine, we have learned time and time again that “What grows together goes together.” Some foods just make some wines so much better. Just as you can elevate a wine with food you carefully choose to pair it with, the right glass can make a decent wine better (and a great wine not so good, too!).
Here are two affordable Italian wines from Sardegna that are elevated so much by the food pairings and by using quality glassware. After Sicily, Sardinia (or Sardegna in Italian) is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Located just west of the Italian Peninsula and south of Corsica, Sardegna is just under 10k square miles and has over 1k miles of cooling coastline. People have lived here for four thousand years, and the island has been controlled by Spanish, Austrians, French, and today Italians although it is considered an autonomous region (one of five in a country of twenty regions).
Yet this Italian region is little known and its wines even less in part possibly because many Americans don’t know that the most important red grape, Cannonau, is the same grape as Garnacha and they don’t really know the most important white grape Vermentino at all. These two wines make for an economical introduction— the Vermentino is under $10 and the Cannonau is under $20.
When wines are this economical, you can splurge on food– like cheese from Italy! I went to Paradise Pantry in downtown Ventura to see whether they had any Sardinian pecorino — and I was rewarded with two, one younger and creamier, and the other, one with shaved truffles. We also made a seafood stew featuring fresh fish, shrimp, lobster, mussels, and clams from the fish market at the Ventura Harbor.
Learn more about Sardegna in this month’s Italian Food Wine Travel invitation from Katarina at Grapevine Adventures.
We’ve written about Cannonau from Sardenia/Sardegna before: Quartomoro Orriu cannonau with a cheeseboard) here.
2017 Cantina Santadi Villa Solais Vermentino di Sardegna
Grapes: 85% Vermentino, 15% Nuragus
purchased (WineHouse LA?)
Founded in 1960 and located in southwestern Sardinia on 16000 acres of gently rolling hills, the vineyards sandy soils of older often bush trained vines extend to the sea which provides relief from the sun. These sandy soils protect the vines from phylloxera where a parasite attacks the roots, producing small holes. Grains of sand fill the cavities immediately and heal the wounds which allows the plant to survive.
I learned from Jennifer Martin of Vino Travels that Antonella Corda inherited the family business in 2010 after growing up around vineyards and studying agronomy and wine management. Jennifer interviewed Antonella who said that “a rational approach drove me towards a sustainable way, which for the vineyards translates into organic. Since the beginning, it was clear that the organic allowed us to take more care of the environment and to make healthier wines, as a true expression of their area of origin.” Read the rest of the interview here.
Appearance: Quite golden, daffodil.
Aroma: Petrol, sea side, iron, seaweed, herbal, fennel, fennel pollen, lemon.
Palate: Anise seed, caraway seed, grass, lemon, very herbal, very cooling, Pernod.
Pairing: The creaminess in the pecorino cheese tames the acidity, earthen qualities become present in both the cheese and the wine, grassy soils and earth. Great with the mixed nuts loving the dried olives and the salt. With our truffled pecorino. The Foradori cheese was over the top with this wine and this is such a strong earthen funky cheese. Lovely with the coppa bringing out sweet fruit in the wine. As we moved on to our main course the wine was intrigued with our spicy chioppino finding the interesting flavors in the wine to enhance the layered flavors of this fisherman’s stew. The flavors of the white fish and the red sauce is perfect for this bright acidic wine. The bright herbal notes are perfect for the wine.
2019 Argiolas Costera Cannonau Di Sardegna
Grapes: Cannonau (Grenache)
sample for my review
The name Costera refers to the hills, and Cannonau equals the local name for Garnacha, which likely arrived centuries ago from Spain or it might have originated in Sardegna and traveled to Spain. Regardless of where it started or what you call it, this grape thrives in the warm Sardinian climate, home to the Argiolas estate founded in 1938 by Antonio Argiolas who was first to focus on quality over quantity, and today continues to be a leading producer of wines from indigenous grapes. While the 2019 is sold out, the 2020 is available.
Appearance: Ruby, mauve rim, medium density,
Aroma: Spice and florals, raspberry, sandelwood, insence cedar, palo Santo, cinnamon stick, cinnamon bear candy, strawberry, red currant, raspberry red vines. A lot going on for an imported red wine that’s under $18!
Palate: Sour cherry up front with a punch, fresh raspberry, smooth baking spices at the back, very dry and tart, with lots of character. Earthen on the finish, indicating iron rich volcanic soil.
Pairing: Great with the coppa on our cheese plate, it changes the tart wine to being much more assessable. The foradori cheese is fantastic with the wine. Very nice with the truffled pecorino. Great with the creamy pecorino, so smooth together, the mushroom brie on a warm tuscan loaf is very nice with the wine. Together the wine is tamed and has more fruit, the flavors of the fish stew are enhanced. The spicy kick of the wine becomes even more of a kick at the back of the throat but is not an overwhelming kick and a lovely beautiful enhancement.
Learn more about wine and food from Sardegna and Calabria from other members of the Italian Food Wine Travel group of wine writers this month:
- Jennifer from Vino Travels shares Antonella Corda: Mother of the Sardinian Vines
- Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm reports about Planning a Trip to France with our Son from Germany while Sipping a Wine from Sardegna
- Gwendolyn from Wine Predator shares On Italian Island Time: Vermentino and Cannonau di Sardegna with Pecorino and Fish Stew
- Camilla from Culinary Cam cooks Mirto di Sardenga-Kissed Braised Ribs
- Cindy from Grape Experiences shares Spring in Sardinia: Surrau “Branu” Vermentino Di Gallura DOCG with Spaghetti con le Vongole (Spaghetti and Clams)
- Andrea from The Quirky Cork is Exploring Sardegna through Vermentino & Monica
- Robin from Crushed Grape Chronicles features Monica and Fregola – a bit of Sardegna at the table
- And, your host Katarina from Grapevine Adventures shares about Two Authentic Expressions of Native Grapes from Calabria and Sardinia
Let’s talk about Italian wines from Calabria & Sardinia with the #ItalianFWT group at our live Twitter Chat tomorrow (Sat 01/04) 11 a.m. ET / 17.00 CET. Join the conversation via #ItalianFWT. See the preview from our host @ricasoli99
Calabria and Sardegna – All True, No April Fool’s Prank
11:00 a.m. EST
Welcome to the #ItalianFWT chat on Italian Wines from Calabria & Sardinia. Introduce yourself, and from where you are tweeting. Share a link to your blog if you’d like.
11:05 a.m. EST
Q1 We’re talking about Italian Wines from Calabria & Sardinia today. What did you know about Calabria and/or Sardinia before today? Which was the first wine you ever tasted from any of these two regions? #ItalianFWT
11:10 a.m. EST
Q2 There are many different grapes and wines to choose from these regions. Tell us about the wine you chose, the grape(s) used to make it, and where it comes from. #ItalianFWT
11:15 a.m. EST
Q3 Did any of you discover a grape variety that was new to you? Tell us about it. #ItalianFWT
11:20 a.m. EST
Q4 Tell us more about the wine and the winery that you selected. Any fun facts? Anything that is important to know? #ItalianFWT
11:25 a.m. EST
Q5 What did you learn about the wine area or appellation where the wine is produced? Are you familiar with its winemaking traditions, producers, and styles of wine? #ItalianFWT
11:30 a.m. EST
Q6 Did your pair the wine with any food? If yes, what food and how did the pairing turn out? Share a pic. #ItalianFWT
11:35 a.m. EST
Q7 Are you familiar with traditional food in general from Calabria and/or Sardinia? If yes, tell us more about it and if you have tried to make it at home. #ItalianFWT
11:40 a.m. EST
Q8 Returning to wine, what did you learn about native grapes and winemaking from Calabria and/or Sardinia in general while writing your article? Share your thoughts with us. #ItalianFWT
11:45 a.m. EST
Q9 Let’s talk about travel. Have you ever visited Calabria and/or Sardinia? If yes, where did you go, what were your impressions? Any favorite spots or must-visits to share? #ItalianFWT
11:50 a.m. EST
Q10 Share one thing you’ve learned about wine from Calabria and/or Sardinia that you wish everyone knew. #ItalianFWT
11:55 a.m. EST
Q11 Any other thoughts or comments on the topic? #ItalianFWT
11:57 a.m. EST
Shoutout to the #ItalianFWT bloggers who wrote about our theme this month and joined us today. Cheers! @Culinary_Cam @ArtPredator @WendyKlik @Vinotravels21 @GrapeExp_Cindy @LemieuxAndrea
11:59 a.m. EST
Next month the Italian Food, Wine and Travel group will explore Abruzzo and Marche hosted by @linda_lbwcsw, so keep an eye out for the invitation. #ItalianFWT
12:00 p.m. EST
Thanks for joining the April #ItalianFWT chat on Italian Wines from Calabria & Sardinia. Thanks to @ricasoli99 for hosting the April chat.
Your Vermentino sounds much nicer than the one I got! Sounds like it was a lovely pairing too.
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For only $10, we didn’t expect that much but it truly was delicious and a great pairing.
Vermentino and pecorino is a delicious pairing. Argiolas for Cannonau is a classic producer. Hope you enjoyed the pairings, etc.
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It was fun and fabulous and affordable too!