Giovanna Chessa’s small, family-owned estate is in the north-west corner of the island of Sardinia, near the city of Sassari; the soil here is limestone-rich, in contrast to the soil of the Gallura (in north-eastern Sardinia) which is granitic, so the Vermentino grown here is distinctly different. The area is also known for the red variety Cagnulari, which may be indigenous to Sardinia. Giovanna’s winemaking style is elegant, transparent and expressive, and the wines are clean but full of character, made entirely of indigenous varieties.
Vermentino di Sardegna IGT
I love Vermentino, and I’ve been importing Vermentino from the north-east corner of the island of Sardinia, the area known as the Gallura, for ages. But I just tasted a Vermentino from another part of Sardinia, near Sassari, that I like just as much. The soil is very different, limestone-rich rather than granitic, and the range of flavor is different, but both are delicious.
Pale yellow in color, this 100% Vermentino shows aromas and flavors of lemon-peel, flowers and ‘macchia,’ the smell of the wild herbs that surround the limestone-rich vineyards. Fresh acidity makes this a very versatile food wine (a natural choice with seafood), and I love it as a dry aperitif too.
Cagnulari Isola dei Nuraghi IGT
The grape variety Cagnulari is either indigenous to Sardinia, or genetically identical to the Spanish variety Graciano, depending on who you believe. (The Sardinian red wines we’ve seen here in the US have mostly been limited to Cannonau, it’s good to see something different.) Ian d’Agata thinks the variety might be a biotype of the Sardinian variety Bovale Sardo, which is indigenous. In any case, it’s very dark in color, both flavorful and fresh, combining the wild herb aroma (called ‘garrigue’ in France, or ‘macchia’ in Italian) that is so common in Mediterranean wines with strong black and red fruit aromas and flavors. Fresh acidity and fine tannins make it very versatile with food; despite being from so far south, this is not at all jammy or ‘cooked’; yet another example of an elegant wine from the very south of Italy.
Kentales (vino di uve stramature)
Irresistable passito muscat, somewhat similar in style to the wines made on the island of Pantelleria. Sweet but not cloying, this would be perfect with nut cookies, or just by itself as dessert.