You should always drink Vermentino in the sunlight. I know you can drink it at night, it will still be delicious, but Vermentino, more in my opinion than other white wines, tastes much better in sunlight. The afternoon sun was pouring through our windows as we enjoyed this pairing, and it just felt right.
Perhaps this is because Vermentino thrives in sunny spots. When you think of Vermentino, you should picture sunny coastal regions in northwestern Italy and the Mediterranean islands of Corsica and Sardinia.
Sardinia is the 2nd largest island in the Mediterranean, sitting west of mainland Italy and south of the French Island of Corsica. Pristine is the word you hear to describe the water here, and the coastal beaches are a magnet for tourists.
This month the writers with #ItalianFWT are diving into the wines of Sardinia, led by Jill Barth of L’ocassion. You can read her invitation post here.
You’ll find links to all of my colleagues’ articles at the end of this post. You can join us Saturday morning September 3rd on Twitter at 8 am PT. Just follow and use the hashtag #ItalianFWT to join the conversation.
The history of Sardinia
Where did the name come from?
The island was named before the Romans ever arrived, although how it got its name is still unknown. Perhaps it was named by the Sherden, an ancient sea people who waged war with the Egyptians. Or it might have been named for Sardus, a son of Hercules.
*side story…King Thespius had 50 daughters. He wished for each of them to bear a son fathered by Hercules. So each day after Hercules went hunting with the King, he would return to bed another of the daughters (supposedly unbeknownst to him, yeah, right). The daughters of Thespius gave birth to 51 sons who are said to have colonized Sardinia.
The early civilization here was Nuragic. While they left no written records, they did leave structures we call “nuraghe.” These conical structures were built from basalt blocks from extinct volcanos on the island. There is a site near Cabras called Mont’e Prama, a necropolis with giant statues of warriors, archers, and boxers. Legends abound of 4-meter skeletons found buried in the hillsides, but also, there is no proof of those existing.
The years of the conquerors
There was metal mining on the island, which caught the attention of the Phoenician traders. Cagliari, the capital of Sardinia, was founded as a trading post for the Phoenicians.
Then the Carthaginians arrived and took over, driving the early Sardinians into the mountains.
Then came the Romans, the Vandals, and Byzantine rule.
Sardinia then fell to the Kingdom of Aragon and then to Spain when Aragon fell.
It was briefly an Austrian territory from 1708 to 1717 before being recaptured and given to Victor Amadeus II of Savoy in compensation for Sicily.
In the mid-1800s, it was united with the provinces of Piemonte.
After WWI, the Sardinia Action party fought for autonomy, which Mussolini crushed.
In WWII, the island was used for airfields in the Mediterranean for the Axis Powers. The Allied Forces bombed the airfields to make them unusable. In 1943 the Italian forces pushed the last of the German troops out.
After the war, in 1948, Sardinia became a self-governing region of Italy.
Today in Sardinia
Today, the island shows a mix of cultures with Italian, Sardinia, Catalan, and Arabic spoken, as well as a mix of these. Sardinians don’t think of themselves as entirely Italian. The official language of the island is Sardinian. It is one of the 12 minority languages of Italy, and it is very similar to Latin and Spanish. Even on this island, you have a variety of dialects that are different enough that locals from different regions may have trouble understanding each other.
While its beaches may be overflowing with tourists in the summer season, as a region, it is one of the least populated in Italy. It is said that there are more sheep than people on this very large island.
It’s also an excellent place to grow old. Sardinia is one of the world’s blue zones, with one of the highest percentages of people 100 years or older on the planet.
Back to Vermentino!
In Sardinia (Sardegna) you will find the finest Vermentino in the Vermentino di Gallura DOCG. These wines come from the Northern part of the island. In Gallura, the granite soil, sun, wind, and sea create grapes with great acidity and flavor.
Vermentino di Gallura is a wine is white. It can be still, semi-sparkling or sparkling and range from dry to sweet. Vineyards sit from sea level to 500 m (1640 feet)
This is the only DOCG in Sardinia currently. It must be 12% alcohol minimum. To receive the Superiore classification, the minimum alcohol must be 13%.
Sella & Mosca Vermentino di Gallura Superiore DOCG
Sella & Mosca has a large estate. In fact, it is one of the largest in Europe at 650 hectares (over 1600 acres). Much of the estate is Mediterranean scrub dotted with vineyards.
The Vermentino for this wine is grown on the Northern slopes of Monte Limbara. This location allows the grapes hot days in the summer with maritime influence with cooler nights.
This wine is fermented and then aged on its lees (dead yeast cells) in Stainless Steel.
Compared to other Vermentinos I have tasted, this was richer than expected and heavier on my palate. Some of this weight and richness would come from aging it on its lees, and some would come from the Superiore on the label, meaning the alcohol must reach 13%. The higher alcohol will increase the weight, and to get that higher alcohol, the grapes would be picked later and riper.
I found aromas of lime, lemon pith, wet stone, chalk, Meyer lemon, and lemon on the nose. In my mouth, there was great acid (perfect for food pairing) and flavors that matched the aromas on the nose.
Mussels in white wine and a salad of fregola, grilled lemon, goat cheese, and basil
I always look to the sea for pairings for Vermentino, so mussels in white wine were an easy go-to choice. Then I looked to foods of Sardinia to add to my meal. I came across Fregola, a Sardinian pasta that looks like a larger version of Israeli cous cous. These pearls of pasta are often enjoyed in a seafood broth, but I decided to create a salad to accompany our mussels.
I cooked the fregola in chicken broth to add flavor, then added grilled lemon, goat cheese, and fresh basil. These flavors worked beautifully with the wine. The saltiness of the mussels and the softened citrus notes of the lemon melded with the wine. The basil freshened each bite and the wine.
More from the #ItalianFWT writers
While Vermentino is my favorite grape from Sardinia, it is not the only grape! The island is home to 120 native grape varieties! You find the white grapes Nuragas, Nasco, and Moscato and the red grapes Cannonau (which is their name for Grenache), Monica, Carignano, and Barbera Sarda.
I look forward to seeing which varieties my fellow writers found!
- Culurgiones (Sardinian Pasta Dumplings) + Pala i Fiori Cannonau 2019 published by Culinary Adventures with Camilla
- Wine and Cheese Delivery! Quartomoro Orriu Cannonau di Sardegna and a Cheese Board from Curdbox #ItalianFWT from Wine Predator
- Mamoiada: When a Wine Area Finds A New Fresh Voice by Grapevine Adventures
- Cannonau and the Nuraghe of Sardinia with Surrau published on Vino Travels
- Zuppa Gallurese and a Cannonau di Sardegna over at A Day in the Life on the Farm
- Learn about the Italian island wine that has been called ‘Sardinian Sherry’ in a republication of Rare Wines From Sardinia And Sicily Are Complex And Historic here on l’occasion.
(In case you want to head down one of these rabbit holes!)
More on Italian wines from Crushed Grape Chronicles
- Le Marche – Verdicchio and beyond
- Pallotte Cac e Ove & Orecchiette with 2 Brilliant Cherry Red Rosatos from Southeast Italy
- Prosecco: Bubbles from Northern Italy’s lush green hills
- Orvieto – The multifaceted white wine of Umbria
- Dreaming of Lake Garda with a wine from Lugana
- Albino Armani Viticoltori dal 1607 – 16 Generations of Pinot Grigio
- Nosiola – a disappearing Northern Italian variety
Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine and WSET 3 Certified. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.
When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.
Wow Robin, I wanted to visit the Island before I read your article and now it has just gone up a few notches on my bucket list. Thanks for the great article.
Thanks so much, Wendy! The photos and descriptions I found about the island make it sound stunning, and the fact that it is a blue zone…maybe we should move there now and live to be 105!
Thanks for the beautiful journey to Sardinia Robin! I have a Vermentino from Cassis that I can’t wait to try!
Thanks, Cathy. I do love Vermentino. Enjoy the Vermentino from Cassis!
I look forward to hearing all about it!