Posted By Joel on October 6, 2014
NOTE: I traveled as a guest of Consorzio Carignano del Sulcis on an educational press trip to experience the Carignano wines of Sardegna’s Sulcis region.
The following is first in a series of planned articles featuring the region of Carignano del Sulcis, its producers and wines:
You might think that to understand Carignano del Sulcis wines one might simply pour some into a glass.
But, you’d be wrong.
Tasting alone doesn’t capture it.
To experience something that extends beyond taste, to feel the enigmatic, beating heart of Carignano del Sulcis, is to understand the appellation in the context of four words:
Sun. Sand. Salt. Scirocco.
One doesn’t need to travel far or long in the region before concluding that the Sulcis sun is both tireless and intense. Light-colored, sandy soils reflect the already strong sunlight back at Carigano vines for intensified effect. It is the amount and quality of Sulcis sunlight that is perhaps the most influencing factor to the zone’s Carignano clusters reaching optimal ripeness as they do, contributing to the high quality and richness of flavor achieved by Carignano wines produced in the region.
Adding to the region’s heat are Scirocco winds that blow from Africa and across the Mediterranean Sea into Sardegna’s southwest corner where the Sulcis area is located. Here, winds also act as important protectors of vine health, providing all important drying to counter moisture and humidity that, if left unchecked, could lead Carignano’s tight clusters to disease.
Presence of the surrounding sea is announced by a seemingly ever-present scent of saline hanging in the Sulcis air - sometimes mixed with the perfume of Mediterranean herbs growing wild on hillsides - providing unforgettable sensorial information that can be detected in Sulcis Carignano. The sea, a powerful moderator of the region’s heat, plays no small role in bringing a special and unique equilibrium to Sulcis climatic conditions.
But, it is the sandy, Sulcis soil which allows ungrafted Carignano vines an opportunity to grow old and safe from phylloxera, a grapevine pest (phylloxera, I’m told, cannot crawl well in the loose, sandy soil.) In fact, Carignano vines trained in the bush or alberello style – a training technique employed to deal with the area’s extreme climatic conditions - can reach to 50, 80, even 100 plus years old in Sardegna’s Sulcis. As poor, sandy soils induce a state of restricted vigor in the vines and old vines have naturally reduced yields, vine nutritional energies are directed to fewer grapes resulting in fruit quality (improved flavor concentration, nuance, etc.) that is astonishingly high.
While traveling in the region, I found Carignano del Sulcis wines I tasted to be wines of harmony showing a remarkable richness of flavor, well-structured wines capable of smoothness, finesse and elegance. Anyone who appreciates the craftsmanship of Burgundy, aromatics and flavors that recall wines of southern France, the intensity of Super Tuscans or the power of California Cab, will find something to love about Carignano del Sulcis.
And I might add to that, anyone who appreciates value: Carignano del Sulcis brings to the market one of the best quality to price ratios in Italian wine today.
It must be said, though, that Carignano del Sulcis is not simply a metaphor for wines of more famous appellations. Like the landscape from which it comes, there is something mysterious, a wildness about Carignano del Sulcis that thrills, an element of personality that is uniquely, deliciously, Sardinian.
Most of the Carignano del Sulcis wines I tasted on this tour would typically best be enjoyed in the short to middle term, say, within five years of vintage. However, there was an impressive example or two of older Carignano del Sulcis wines reaching back eight or ten years that were drinking superbly.
You don’t need to travel to Sardegna to enjoy Carignano del Sulcis. But, understanding something of Carignano del Sulcis in the context of the zone’s incredibly unique terroir and the unique influences of sun, sand, salt and scirocco upon the wines, you are fully prepared – from the rim of your wine glass - to gain a deeper appreciation for the unique expression of Carignano from Sardegna’s Sulcis and its ability to convey nuances of the absolutely fascinating Sulcis terroir.
Recommended Producers Whose Wines Exemplify Sulcis Terroir:
Look for more about Carignano del Sulcis, specific wines, their producers and food pairings on Vintrospective in the weeks and months to come.
Related Article, Sardinian Passion