In Sardegna: An Afternoon with Luca Fontana of Cantina Mesa
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.
While in Sardegna exploring the Carignano wines of the Sulcis region, I had the good luck to come upon Luca Fontana- a man filled with an enormous energy and passion for what he is doing … and for the place where he does it.
Luca is simply an extraordinary ambassador not only for the wines of Cantina Mesa, but for Sardegna, Sulcis and Carignano as well.
Cantina Mesa – the word Mesa in both Sardinian and Spanish, means table or dinner table – is the extraordinary creation of Gavino Sanna, a massively successful Italian advertising professional. Located on the south western tip of Sardegna, Cantina Mesa, the youngest estate in the area, having been established in 2004, produces 750K bottles from 70 hectares of vineyards.
The local climate is Mediterranean with little rain, most of which comes during winter. According to Fontana, to go even six months without rain water does not threaten the vines, but notes that the vines are sensitive to humidity related disease. Thus, the persistent wind plays a key role in drying moisture, keeping vines healthy.
Naturally sandy soils of the area, relates Fontana, arise from ancient seas and are rich in limestone, skeletal, mineral and organic components that have bearing on the success of the estate’s wines.
Indeed, as the afternoon in the company of Luca progressed, it became clear to me that the cornerstone of Mesa’s philosophy is a kind of maternal love married to generosity, dedication and respect: Mesa’s wines are astonishingly good for the same reason your mother’s pasta tastes better than any other.
From the Mesa building itself which, through minimalist architecture, occupies an insanely gorgeous landscape in the hills around the estate’s principal vineyard in Su Baroni without disruption, to the tri-level winery inside, one of exceedingly modern design that cares for every aspect of the grape / wine process like a young mother caring for her infant child, the Mesa philosophy is pervasively tangible.
Although Cantine Mesa also produces wines from Vermentino, Cannonau, Syrah and Chardonnay, I will limit remarks here to Mesa’s BUIO and BUIO BUIO, the esates’s first and second label Carignano wines, respectively, and a mention of a special bottling, that of the estate’s Gavino, a wine I enjoyed tremendously:
I am especially fond of Cantina Mesa’s wine BUIO – BUIO in local Italian dialect means dark – a wine that speaks with authority about its relevance and connection to “place”, a wine essential to the Sulcis experience. 100% Carignano fermented in stainless steel, inoculated with selected French yeast, followed by 2 months bottle ageing, BUIO pulls you into some kind of sublime seaside conversation with impressions of fresh berry, Mediterranean bush, and smoke.
Mesa’s first label wine, BUIO BUIO, which I adore, brings more depth to that conversation, warmer on the palate, heightened intensity, and a more structured frame. Impressions of wood and spice – though not at all overdone – find good balance against the wines richness. Rests a minimum of ten months in first / second passage barriques, followed by another four months in bottle.
A special mention for Mesa’s massively impressive Gavino, produced from a 65 year old vineyard of ungrafted alberello trained vines facing the sea. This moody, magnificent wine is, I believe, an anniversary bottling, and so may be, unfortunately, discontinued.
Mesa’s wines offer a unique, stylish, singular interpretation of Sardegna in voices that remain connected to and in harmony with Sardinian tradition.
The afternoon ended with a wish from Luca, a wish not for writing about wines or for market development, etc., but simply that we should, “come back to Sardegna, to Sulcis, to Porto Pino…with families…with dogs…whatever… but, come back”.
You can bet on that, Luca.
Related Post, The Enigmatic, Beating Heart of Carignano del Sulcis