Sardinia, the quintessential land of wine

Grappoli di uva cannonau

Sardinia, the quintessential land of wine

The Sardinians were the first wine-makers in the Mediterranean, a discovery that contributes to making the history and tradition of wine production on the Island unique: the ancient vine varieties are very similar to those still present today
a sort of Cannonau dating back three thousand 500 years

According to Greek legends, Aristaeus introduced this cultivation to Sardinia. The hero settled here because of the beauty of the land and he gave his two sons names linked to agriculture and viticulture: Kallikarpos, meaning ‘bearing good fruit’ and Charmos, from the Semitic krmy (winemaker). From mythography to reality. Today, the fact that wine-making on the Island goes back at least as far as the 15th century BC is a certainty: according to archaeologists, botanists and chemists, the oldest wine in the Western Mediterranean area was Sardinian. It was a sort of Cannonau dating back more than three thousand years. The theory became a certainty at the end of 2016, with the analysis of organic residue from a stone press discovered in the Nuragic village of Monte Zara, next to Monastir, a few kilometres from Cagliari. Archaeobotanical studies have unequivocally led us back to the practice of pressing and processing of grapes, particularly red grapes. This is the most ancient press in the Mediterranean, proof of the Nuragic civilization's considerable expertise in wine-making. The discovery places wine tradition as far back as the Middle Bronze Age, even though the thriving presence of vitis vinifera sylvestris leads us to assume that there was domestication and highly evolved oenology even further back in time.

Nuraghe Adoni - Villanovatulo
wine-making tools and grape seeds closely linked to Nuragic architecture

The Monte Zara press is irrefutable proof of this and other indications already supported the theory. The Nuragic well of Sa Osa (15th century BC), in Cabras, was a natural ‘refrigerator’ of Vernaccia and Malvasia grape seeds. The vine seeds are identical in the archaeological layers between 1400 and 800 BC: from this, we can ascertain that the Nuragic people cultivated the same grape varieties for 600 years. Charred grapes were found in the villages of Nuraghe Adoni in Villanovatulo (12th century BC) and Nuraghe Genna Maria in Villanovaforru and in the settlement of Duos Nuraghes in Borore (14th century BC). Pollens of vitis vinifera vinifera were recovered in a hut in the Bau Nuraxi in Triei (11th century BC), along with a jug and a bronze bowl, which were often linked to wine. The Sardinian pots dating back to the Early and Late Bronze Ages - dishes, jugs and ladles -can all be associated to ceremonial rituals and drinks. The Mycenaean pots imported to Sardinia, rhyton and kantharos, are also proof that wine was consumed, just like a goblet of Euboic origin documented in the Sant'Imbenia Nuraghe, in the park of Porto Conte (Alghero). Not only was the wine produced and drunk, but it was also exported: off the coast of Malta, wine amphorae were discovered in the remains of an old ship. These were typical ceramic items produced on the Island, unequivocal signs that they were Sardinian, and were already being used for trade with the Eastern Mediterranean in the 11th century BC.

Vite millenaria - Urzulei
Nature, environment and anthropisation: The conditions on the Island have always been ideal for viticulture

The vinicultural vocation here is deeply linked to Sardinia's history and culture, as well as to its environment. The fact that the environmental context is and was ideal for wild grapevines is demonstrated by the presence of some of the most ancient examples of these in the world, with stem dimensions out of the ordinary, such as the Bacu Biladesti grapevines in Urzulei, near Genna Silana: a circumference of 135 centimetres. Sardinian viticulture is a story of colonization of lands and domestication of grapevines and, even more so, one of a scarcely anthropised territory with conditions favourable to the development of the wild grapevine, an ecological indicator of the health of this territory and the ancestor of the cultivated varieties. The cultivation took place independently of the contribution made by imported vines, but we should not exclude the fact that relationship between the Sardinians and the Aegean and Levantine populations, from the 15th century BC, led to the arrival of new vine varieties, similarly to what happened at the end of the Middle Ages with vine varieties of Spanish origin, among which Cannonau, which has survived until the present day.

Vitigni di cannonau - Jerzu
native vine varieties, a true genius loci of Sardinia

A large number of wild vine varieties, domesticated in prehistoric times and in Antiquity, are still cultivated today: these are native vine varieties, true genius loci, or rather an innate characteristic of an environment and of those who live in it. The resulting vinicultural production has a strong identity, deriving both from vine varieties included in the DOC productions, like Nuragus and Monica, widespread throughout much of the Island, Nasco, typical of Southern Sardinia, Nieddera cultivated around Oristano, and also from relatively uncommon native vine varieties, like Granatza, found throughout Barbagia, Licronaxu, wine white from the Oristano area, white Cannonau , typical of central-eastern Sardinia, Girò from the Mandrolisai region, Caricagiola from the Gallura region, and Vernaccia from Oristano, unique worldwide, and appreciated by numerous scholars, among whom Dante, Boccaccio, Shakespeare and Cervantes. The native vine varieties are truly excellent expressions of territories, landscape and culture. They also represent an opportunity for an authentic experience, through itineraries that enhance the value of a patrimony of thousands of years of know-how. The singularity of this know-how translates into unique tastes and sensations.

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