Sardinian wine

When we talk about de viticulture on Sardinia, we need first of all highlight the incredible variety of grape races that are cultivated on the island, which in the last decades have permitted to produce a very rich oenological offer.

Such a variety is due to the morphologic characteristics of Sardinia which form a lot of natural environments with microclimates that often change in the space of few kilometres. This is due to a territory full of mountains and hills, geologically different, and to a lucky position in the Mediterranean sea that allows to have two distinct climatic zones between north and south.



It seems that this island has arose from the sea to receive all the contrasts that the nature can offer: from the colours of the large hilly ground extents to the ancient mountains from where you can enjoy majestic and silent landscapes, where large forests of chestnut trees and oaks grow; from the fertile and sunny flat lands of the Campidano to the tonalities of the sky at dawn or at sunset along the coast that sometimes is high and steep, and sometimes low and sweet and made precious by splendid beaches where the sea has such bright colours to appear almost unreal.

In this scenery where the contrast reigns sovereign, the character of the people too has token similar peculiarities. It is than normal that the most noble product of this land expresses the character of the ambient in which it has born. The wine is an element that isn’t simply a agricultural product, it has inside the soul of the land in which it births and the character of who gave it shape.

Who has the curiosity to deeply understand Sardinia and its people, can not avoid to let be guided by its nectar that contains the secret of the soul of the island, a magic and mysterious soul, rich of stories and legends that tell about fairies and witches, giants and mythological animals. These legends come from the irrational desire of men tempered by a hard and repetitive life, made of work in the fields or loneliness in the pastures up on the mountains, to imagine the fantastic.

When at evening, finally in front of the fireplace, in a atmosphere suspended in time and made sweet by the wine, these tales, told with a mystic and wise speech, assume the dignity of History to cross the flow of the time with no changes, handed down for generations.




From the origins to the first half of the XIX century.
The history of viticulture in Sardinia is very old and is characterized by an ups and down of fortune. There has been periods of great fortune and other of crisis and decadence.
It seems now clear that the “Vitis vinifera” is a native specie of Sardinia, as it is said of other Mediterranean regions.
In the last decades archaeological researches found traces of this plant in the nuragic period ( 1.600 / 800 b.C.), and than is very probable that the Sardinian populations of those times were able to produce wine. Moreover we are almost sure that grapevines such as the Cannonau and the Nuragus are native of the island and that they are among the oldest grapevines of the Mediterranean region.
With the arrival of the Phoenicians the grape growing was improved for trade targets, particularly in the south of the island. This has gone further with the Carthaginian, till the arrival of the Romans who were great estimators of the Sardinian wine, especially the white one.
With the fall of the Roman empire, in the Byzantine period and for all the high middle ages, the viticulture has suffered a deep decadence. In the middle ages the grape growing has survived in limited zones thanks to the work of the monastic orders called by the kings of the four Sardinian kingdoms to colonize the country side. A rather important development there has been in the late middle age in the kingdom of Arbarè.
It is anyway with the Spanish government that there has been a great enrichment of the varieties of the cultures with the introduction of new grapevines and techniques.
When Sardinia passes from the Spanish crown to the Savoy family, there has been in stead a huge involution, because there was not an agricultural politic that would increase the development of the field. In stead they introduced laws, first of all the contested law of the chiudende (for which anyone could fence any land, generating terrible contrasts, and favouring the richest and more powerful people),which signed badly the development of the island’s economy for many years. Practically for more than a century Sardinia had simply the role to provide wood, raw materials and soldiers for the development of Piedmont.
Eight hundred and Nine hundred
In the XIX century the viticulture situation on Sardinia was not precisely florid. The production was limited at the local or familiar needs, and there were vineyards only in the flatland of the Campidanu and in the hilly lands of Trexenta and Partiolla. The wines suffered of the fact of being produced from “short trunk” cultures that had a low income, and moreover the dry weather of these places and the old grape-growing techniques used to give to the wine a not very fine character: very alcoholic and a strong aroma, so that it was good to be sold only to “cut” wines produced in other regions.
In the second half of the century it has being tried to discipline and rationalize the viticulture field with the institution of the Royal school of winery and enology of Cagliari, that has given a certain impulse to the field. But the effort of this institution, although it has introduced new rule schedules and more modern agricultural techniques, gave only partial positive results because the proposals presented by the technicians were often not able to influence the local uses and culture which were very attached to the strong wine of the tradition. All this work anyway has been wasted with the appearance of the phylloxera between the ’800 and the ‘900, and the viticulture went in a new crisis. At first the disease spread in the north, to hit than all the rest of the island. In a few decades the extensions of the vineyards went down of three fifths, and the consequences were felt till the second post war.
From the years ’40 started the first experiments of transformation of the traditional cultures to espalier and awning cultures with a higher income, but is with the institution of the Autonomous Region of Sardinia that the basis of  a definitive turning point were put for good. With the institution of the Faculty of winery sciences of the University of Sassari, and the engagement of the technicians of the centre for experimentations of the Winery of Cagliari Union, was given a great contribute to the transformation of winery on Sardinia.
The vineyard surface increased, (even though only partly re-implanted from the time of the phylloxera), increasing the production of the table-wines and founding new cooperative wine stores. This period, that goes from the mid 50s to the first years of the 70s, allowed to increase the production of the table-wines, new techniques allowed to a traditional grapevine such as the Nuragus, to be transformed in its structure, drier and finer, but there has been also a great reduction of the variety of the grape races. For example the Cannonau and the Nuragus occupied most of the production, moreover, against the tradition that wants Sardinia to be a land of red wines, a greater importance has been given to the white wines, more appreciated in the overseas markets.
Although this renewing brought to an increase of the production and to an higher income of the grapes, the results in the cellars weren’t so convincing. For example, grapevines such as the Monica have been impoverished by the new working methods, and couldn’t compete in the market of the most famous red wines produced in regions were the tradition and the innovation have always been constant factor.
The increase of the production, that anyway was not helped by the quality, have created difficulties in the markets, moreover the costs to export the wine outside the island didn’t allowed competitive prices. This fact led a lot of vine-dressers, around the ‘70s, to accept the contributes for explanation offered by the E.E.C. and so there have been a new reduction of the vineyard surface, and many cooperative wine stores closed.
From the end of the ‘70s till today.
The period just examined, despite the big problems and the mistakes, deserves a more careful valuation and not so negative as it could seem. It has been than, that the basis for a modern viticulture have been put, with a great help to the transformation of the way to concept the viticulture. Moreover with the creation of the social cellars were introduced production rule schedules completely unknown before which have allowed to obtain a lot D.O.C. and I.G.T. trademarks and one acknowledgment of D.O.C.G. for the Vermentino of Gallura.
The knowledge acquired during the decades just gone by, despite the different business general lines, has created the bases of the renewal of the field. From the end of the 70s to the beginning of the 80s the enterprise of the private producers, moved finally by a competitive spirit and not anymore conditioned by economic incentives, together with a re-organization of some cooperative wine stores, has created today’s Sardinian viticulture. Today the productions target is the search of high quality, no anymore the generalist market. These results have been obtained thanks also with the help of technicians and world wide famous enologists, who have create trademarks considered true icons and wines many times awarded in the most glamorous wine events. All this has been made by valuating the most known grapevines of the Island, or also the unknown ones, as it has happened with the Carinniano of the Sulsis that has had a great success, or else by introducing world wide known grapevines such as the Cabernet Sauvignon and the Chardonnay that are now naturalized with the territory helping to create tools of great value. Finally there has been a new interest to this art by young producers creating than a totally Sardinian know how. 

Final considerations

Finally we can say that the general situation of viticulture is the best that Sardinia has ever known. In the last decades there has been a development in the way to manage the enterprises, and the producer, from farmer, has become a self confident manager who knows what his enterprise should be. Quality, research and marketing made deserve to some enterprises and cooperative wine stores a lot of international acknowledgments. All this has improved a positive trend in the whole field stimulating the renewal of other wine stores, even historic ones.
All this can’t be enough in the modern market where the taste changes frequently. By going on only with the enterprises of the single producers there can’t be any guarantee. The goal of the producers should be to make feel to the average consumer the level obtained by our wines. Sardinia is not still known as a wine land in the foreign markets and there is not a unique image of the Sardinian enologic offer, thing that happens in stead in other regions of solid tradition or even that are coming out now. To do this we need to do an other step forward and take in consideration the possibility of crating associations with this goal only. In other places is plenty of positive examples.

Wines DOCG (Guaranteed and controlled origin naming)

Vermentino from Gallura

Wines DOC (Controlled origin naming)
Campidano of Terralba
Cannonau of Sardinia
Carignano of the Sulcis
Girò from Cagliari
Malvasia from Bosa
Malvasia from Cagliari
Monica from Cagliari
Monica of Sardinia
Moscato from Cagliari
Moscato of Sardinia
Moscato from Sorso and Sennori
Nasco from Cagliari
Nuragus from Cagliari
Sardinia Semidano
Vermentino of Sardinia
Vernaccia from Oristano
Wines IGT (Typical geographic indication)
Hills of Limbara
Island of the Nuraghes
Province of Nuoro
Tirso Valley
Valleys of Porto Pino


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