When you think of Italy what images come to mind? Popes and Caesars, the Colosseum and Gladiators, huge classical ruins and neo-classical buildings, Renaissance art and the culture of Florence, or maybe sports cars like Ferrari or Maserati.
When you arrive in Sardinia you get none of that. Not that it isn’t there, but Sardegna (Italian) is austere, isolated, and solitary. About 125 miles away at sea from anything–the Italian Mainland, Sicily and North Africa–the people are insular, they have their own way, and in many cases they haven’t changed since when there were Caesars, Gladiators, and Renaissance painters.
Despite being an island the inhabitants of Sardinia are more likely to be shepherds or farmers than fisherman, which only adds to the insular nature of the people. Empires come and go but the shepherds and the farmers are still here. Wine making is an old trade here too, and about a 30 to 40 minute bus ride from the main city of Cagliari past a good number of sheep (they outnumber the people on the island), in the Municipality of Sediana, you will find the home and vineyard of the Arigiolas family.
The vineyard was founded in the early 1900’s by the patriarch Antonio Argiolas, who had a wild idea take the local grapes and make the very best wine possible from it. This simple-but-successful strategy has been handed down to Franco and Giuseppe, Antonio’s sons and to their children. I sampled two whites and two reds; the whites were S’elegas, made from 100% Nurabus grapes, and Costamolino, made from 100% Vermentino. Both were excellent whites and in the summer I hope I can find them here is the states. The reds were equally good. Perdera, a blend of Monica, Garignano, and Bovale Sardo, and Costera, 90% Cannonua, 5% Bovale and Carignano, all native varietals.
We enjoyed our wine on a magnificent November day with sopressata, cheese, and a local crisp bread that was so good it should be the subject of its own review. My host was Antonio’s Granddaughter.
I have talked about the Cannonua grape and its interesting connection to longevity. Antonio lived to be 102 years old, so it seems fitting that we focus on the Costera. The color is simply beautiful, a clear bright Garnet shimmering in the glass. The nose is a vigorous bouquet of dark fruit. I do enjoy the aroma of a big tasty wine, and I assure you this will stand toe to toe with a Cab and not back down. The taste is outstanding: warm, full-bodied ripe fruit and pleasant tannins. Pair this with roasted meat, a beef stew, or sharp cheese, sit back, and enjoy. We don’t need no stinking Caesar’s or Ferrari’s either, but if you happen to have a Botticelli painting, looking at that would go well with drinking this wine too.
In order to get the color and flavor just right, the winemaker allowed the skins to macerate with the juice for 12 to 15 days. The wine is then aged in French barriques for six to eight months prior to bottling. Maturity date for this wine is about 5 years.
The Costera is considered an “entry-level” bottling. If you have more disposable income you might want to try the limited edition Turriga 2008. But seriously folks, most of us will be ecstatically happy with the Costera. Wine Advocate rated this wine a 90, and at this price point, around $15, you can put the extra money towards a trip to Sardinia. Trust me, you will not be disappointed.
Argiolas bottles about 2 million bottles a wine a year. I suggest you look for yours.