Argiolas Costera 1994
Argiolas is the foremost wine estate on the island of Sardinia producing archetypal wines from native varietals. Antonio Argiolas, who died in 2009 at the age of 102, inherited seven acres of vines from his father in 1938 and was the first on the island to convert to modern viticulture to pursue quality over quantity. His sons, Franco and Giuseppe, replanted the vineyards in the 1980s with the goal of reducing yields and focusing exclusively on Sardinian grapes. Joined by enologist Mariano Murru, the Argiolas family is today recognized as Sardinia’s leading wine producer. Sardinia is the second-largest island in the Mediterranean and lies roughly 190 miles west of Italy's mainland. The kingdom of Aragón ruled Sardinia for 400 years and many of its vines came from Spain, including Bovale Sardo, Carignano, and Cannonau. The island can be divided into three principal viticultural areas: the north, influenced by the marine influence of the Costa Smeralda which specializes in Vermentino; the southwest, where Carignano is at its best; and the Trexenta hills north of the capital of Cagliari featuring Nuragus, Monica, and Cannonau. The vineyards of Argiolas are located in the areas of Trexenta and Sulcis where the family controls 600 acres planted to native Sardinian grapes. The Argiolas family has worked diligently to become the leader in Sardinian enology and insists on using native Sardinian vines. The winery produces both a classic and prestige line of wines. The classic wines are fresh in style and bottled under various DOCs, including Vermentino di Sardegna and Cannonau di Sardegna. The late Giacomo Tachis believed southern Sardinia possessed the “true soul of the island,” and helped create the prestige offerings of Argiolas, bottled under the Isola del Nuraghi IGT and aged in French barriques. These include Korem, based on Bovale Sardo, and the benchmark Cannonau blend Turriga.
Hailed for centuries as a Mediterranean vine-growing paradise, multiple cultures over many centuries have ruled the large island of Sardinia. Set in the middle of the Tyrrhenian Sea, the Phonoecians, Ancient Rome, and subsequently the Byzantines, Arabs and Catalans have all staked a claim on the island at some point in history. Along the way, these inhabitants transported many of their homeland’s prized vines and today Sardinia’s modern-day indigenous grape varieties claim multiple origins. Sardinia’s most important red grapes—namely Cannonau (a synonym for Grenache) and Carignan—are actually of Spanish origin.
Vermentino, a prolific Mediterranean variety, is the island’s star white. Vermentino has a stronghold the Languedoc region of France as well as Italy’s western and coastal regions, namely Liguria (where it is called Pigato), Piedmont (where it is called Favorita) and in Tuscany, where it goes by the name, Vermentino. The best Vermentino, in arguably all of the Mediterranean, grows in Sardinia's northeastern region of Gallura where its vines struggle to dig roots deep down into north-facing slopes of granitic soils. These Vermentino vines produce highly aromatic, full and concentrated whites of unparalleled balance.
Today aside from its dedication to viticulture, Sardinia remains committed to maintaining its natural farmlands, bucolic plains of grazing sheep and perhaps most of all, its sandy, sunny, Mediterranean beaches.
Enjoying great glory across a variety of appellations, Grenache thrives in any warm, Mediterranean climate where ample sunlight allows its clusters to achieve full phenolic ripeness. The grape typically produces full-bodied reds interestingly light in both color and tannins. While it can make a charmingly complex single varietal wine, it also lends well to blending. Grenache's birthplace is Spain (there called Garnacha) where it remains important, particularly in Priorat where winemakers enjoy great liberties in blending Grenache with other varieties. Today it might be most well associated with the red blends of the Southern Rhône, namely Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Côtes du Rhône and its Villages. The Italian island of Sardinia produces bold, rustic Grenache (there called Cannonau) whereas in California, Washington and Australia, Grenache has achieved popularity both flying solo and in blends.
In the Glass
In sufficiently warm conditions, Grenache produces smooth and generous wines that are loaded with strawberry, cherry blackberry, purple plum and in the richest examples, even cocoa, black tea or licorice.
Despite its bold flavors, Grenache has very mild-mannered tannins, which makes it eminently quaffable on its own, yet easy to match with food. Because of its friendly nature, Grenache is the ultimate barbecue red, pairing happily with lamb chops, pork loin or tri-tip. Unlike most other full-bodied reds, Grenache’s low tannin level ensures that it will not easily be fazed by a bit of spice.
Sardinia is often revered for its association with a long and healthy life. Residents of the Italian island often live well into their 90s and beyond, crediting this to their antioxidant-rich red wines, like Cannonau, along with their healthy Mediterranean diet.