Argiolas Cannonau Di Sardegna 'Costera' 2016
Italian wine lovers: Do you remember the wine that made you fall in love with Italian wine in the first place? Can I get a show of hands for Cannonau?
Oh. Um. Is it just me?
Once upon a time (before I could afford Barolo and Brunello) my go-to red for red sauce pastas, pizza, and other southern Italian fare was Cannonau, specifically from the Mediterranean island of Sardinia. My friend, Rita, a native Sardinian, introduced me to it back when we worked in the tasting room at King Family Vineyards.
I was hooked. It had so many of the characteristics I liked (and still like) in a wine: Juicy ripe fruit, spice, power, and length. It delivered nuance and complexity without having to wait for bottle age, or spending big bucks.
I'd buy it by the case in my early 20s, but things changed. Time went on. My exposure to wine broadened, and somewhere along the way I stopped drinking Cannonou altogether.
So, Wednesday evening I went over to Evan and Stephanie’s to meet with a wine rep, and out of his bag comes – you guessed it – Cannonau di Sardegna.
Hello, my old friend!
Except, this is a new producer to me: Argiolas. And, if memory serves, this one is even better than the one I used to drink…And with the Guild discount, less coin as well.
Cannonau is Grenache by any other name. It thrives in the warm, Italian sun and is the principal grape of Sardinia. The jury is out on whether it arrived via Spain or is native to the island (the locals have made up their minds). Cannonau is deeply colored, deeply flavored, full bodied, and perfectly designed for mom’s spaghetti. It's uncomplicated, but has complexity. Gulpable, but fine. Powerful, but elegant. Decidedly Old World, but you don't have to wait as it drinks perfectly well in its youth.
You might call it the island version of Chianti Classico?
Argiolas has been passed down through the generations. Antonio Argiolas inherited seven acres of vines from his father in 1938 and was the first on the island to convert to modern viticulture to pursue quality over quantity. His sons, Franco and Giuseppe, replanted the vineyards in the 1980s with the goal of reducing yields and focusing exclusively on Sardinian grapes. Joined by enologist Mariano Murru and the illustrious consultant Giacomo Tachis, the Argiolas family is today recognized as one of Sardinia’s leading wine producers.
The Argiolas’s Cannonau di Sardegna ‘Costera’ (meaning “hills”) shows the typicity of the Cannonau grape with fragrances of ripe strawberry, black cherry, underbrush, herbs, and spices. The flavors are ripe but fresh, with a touch of classic Italian rusticity. The acidity balances the fruit and is the perfect pairing for pizza, pasta, or salty & nutty cheeses. The wine sees a bit of French oak, but is not oaky; just enough wood to round out those tannins and impart a hint of vanilla. 'Costera' is the name of the vineyard, which is planted to 40-45 year old vines at an elevation of 725 feet. The soil composition is pebbly, calcerous clay-loam.
I’m typing this offer as I’m eating a pepperoni pie (alone, mind you) and the bottle is disappearing…quickly.
Those familiar with Grenache from the southern regions of France or Spain will notice a resemblance in Cannonau. An intensely fragrant nose, spicy fruit on the palate, and long, lingering finish…Yeah, this is Granache…err, Cannonau. (Good thing the wine can't get mad for calling it by the wrong name). Then, add in the smell of fresh herbs and that classic, delineated fresh acidity you find in pretty much all well-made Italian wines and boom: You’ve got Argiolas Cannonau di Sardegna. Time to rekindle this relationship...and re-up.