Located 150 miles off the west coast of Italy, Sardinia (also known as Sardegna) is one of Italy’s most diverse and eclectic winemaking regions. Given its location in the Mediterranean, Sardinia has absorbed winemaking influences – both in terms of winemaking techniques and the types of grapes grown – as much from France and Spain as Italy.
Throughout its long and tumultuous history, Sardinia has belonged to a number of kingdoms and empires. The island is the second largest island in the Mediterranean, a bit smaller than Sicily but three times larger than Corsica, its neighbor to the north.
Given its mountainous and rugged terrain, Sardinia has the lowest wine production per hectare of any Italian wine region. Moreover, the island has a large number of DOC and IGT zones, sometimes making it confusing for the average wine consumer to understand where on the island the wine is being produced.
Despite its proximity to two of Italy’s most renowned wine regions – Tuscany and Lazio – Sardinia does not grow any of the grapes commonly found there, such as Sangiovese or Montepulciano. Instead, the island specializes in largely French and Spanish grape varietals, such as Grenache, Carignan, Cabernet Sauvignon and Bobal. In addition, the island is known for the popular Mediterranean grape Muscat Blanc. Just about the only uniquely Italian grapes found on Sardinia are Malvasia and Vermentino.
Starting in the 16th century, Sardinia was known as the “wine island” for all the vineyards growing there. However, by the 20th century, the focus had shifted from quality to quantity, and Sardinian wine acquired a reputation for being cheap and high in alcohol. That has largely changed over the past 25 years, however. A small group of Sardinian winemakers are renewing the emphasis on quality, mostly by reducing yields and improving methods of cultivation, picking and winemaking. Some have referred to this as the Sardinian Renaissance.
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