Cannonau of Sardinia: brief history of the island’s enological symbol
We tend to go on holiday with a hunger for knowledge, but it’s not only important to feed our soul and intellect, it’s also important to nurture our palettes, perhaps with a fantastic glass of Sardinian Cannonau or delicious Sardinian seadas, one of the most famous and loved deserts on the island.
Food and wine traditions often have a fundamental part when learning about somewhere new because they show the identity of a territory and the culture of a population through recipes like that of the Sardinian seadas or excellent wines like Cannonau of Sardinia.
The Cannonau or Cannonao or even Garnacha in Spanish and Grenache in French, is the most ancient black grape in the Mediterranean and is commonly grown all over the island of Sardinia. Until a few years ago it was thought the Cannonau came from the Hibernian peninsula and brought to Sardinia during the Spanish invasion between XV and XVI centuries, however recent studies and the encounter of ancient grape seeds in some Archaeological sites including the neuralgic village Duos Nuraghes in Borore, a municipality near Nuoro, have proven its an endemic cultivation.
Excavations in 2020 at Borore have shed light on hundreds of grape seeds of carbonized vines dating back to 1200 BC, therefore about 3200 years ago the neuralgic population had built gigantic nuraghi and already grew and produced the wine which was brought to Spain where it was renamed Canonazo in Sevilla and Garnacha in Aragona.
Before recent archeological discoveries proving the plant was present and cultivated on the island by the neuralgic civilization, the official story tells how the vine, originally from the Caucasus area and Mesopotamia, was brought through Anatolia, Egypt, Aegean islands and Greece and then to western Sardinia by the Phoenicians.
Cannonau of Sardinia: the DOC wine types
The Cannonau of Sardinia is a DOC wine, it is obligatory to age it for minimum one year and is then kept for six months in barrels made of chestnut or oak wood. It’s by 99% a compound of Cannonau grapes and the remaining 1% of local production grapes.
The denominations of controlled origin is assigned to the following types:
- Classic: produced in the province of Nuoro. It has a ruby red color, tending to graininess with age, a floral aroma with a hint of mature fruit and a soft and savoury flavor.
- Red: produced in the province of Cagliari, Nuoro, Oristano and Sassari. An intense ruby red color, it has the fragrance of mature fruit and red and black berries, its flavour is dry and savoury.
- Red reserve: produced in the province of Cagliari, Nuoro, Oristano and Sassari. Its color is ruby red, with a tendency toward graininess when aged, it has a floral aroma with scents of mature fruit and a savoury, soft and persistent flavor.
- Jerzu reserve: produced in the province of Nuoro. The color is ruby red, with an orange tinge when aged, it has a pleasant odor and a dry flavour.
- Rosato: produced in the province of Cagliari, Nuoro, Oristano and Sassari. It has a vivid red color, more or less intense, a floral perfume with a note of cherry and red fruits and a sapid flavour.
The Rosso reserve and the Jerzu reserve have a minimum degree of alcohol equal to 13,5% and are aged for three years in oak wood barrels. Alongside the list of DOC wines there are the under-denominated Cannonau of Sardinia Capo Ferrato, Nepente of Oliena and Jerzu wines and their respective “reserves” meaning the wines which have been aged for a period of time just as the Jerzu reserve is.
Cannonau can also be a dry spirit, sweet spirit and sweet wine. The spirits are obtained with the addition of other ingredients so to raise the alcohol levels which is 16% in the sweet version and 18% in the dry version. The sweet wine can contain up to 50 gm of sugar per litre as supposed to the maximum of 10 gm per liter in the Classic Cannonau.
The Cannonau of Sardinia is a wine to be consumed during a meal or served with other delicacies at the end of a meal according to the type of wine. The red Cannonau, reserve and classic are perfect to accompany grilled meats, roasts, pork and wild meats. The rosé wines are best served with white meats, starters and first courses. Sweet wine is beautifully combined with mature cheeses, red berry pies or parfait, meanwhile the spirits are best served with dry pastries.