Santadi Cala Silente Vermentino 1999
The Sulcis peninsula, in the island’s southwest, is Sardinia’s most ancient area, geologically speaking; rich in archaeological sites and artifacts, its landscape offers an astonishing palette of variations and contrasts. Coastal sand dunes, gentle hills and inlets, narrow strips of flatland and inland mountains, rugged cliffs overhanging the sea interspersed with silky-smooth white beaches, pine trees, junipers and vineyards. In the heart of this unique region is a medieval town called Santadi, poised like a mirage between the dazzling white sand dunes of Porto Pino and the shady quiet forest of Pantaleo, where Sardinian deer tread freely among centuries-old oak trees, cork trees and holly oaks.
Well over half a century ago – it was 1960 – a winery was founded there and named after its extraordinary location: Cantina Santadi or more simply, Santadi. Santadi was based on a partnership of fine local growers, which made it deeply rooted in Sulcis terroir. After a decade and a half establishing a reputation for severe quality standards, Santadi partners elected Antonio Pilloni as their President.
The choice was a fortunate one and in 1975 Pilloni succeeded in bringing the Cantina to international prominence; he remains at the helm today. In the early 1980s, he called on Giacomo Tachis to consult for Santadi.
Santadi and its territory, in fact, are particularly close to Tachis’ heart. As he confessed to Michèle Shah in a Decanter interview: “I’m absolutely passionate about Vermentino [and Carignano]. There are still parts of Sardinia which I consider virgin land: it’s a spectacular island, especially the south, which is the true soul of the island.”
Santadi vineyards cover an impressive 1,235 acres (500 hectares) of prime, gently rolling terrain reaching right out to the sea; all within an 18-mile radius from the winery so that fruit can be conveyed in minimal time. The soil is unique, its sandy nature conducive to the survival of pre-Phylloxera rootstock. In the words of Raffaele Cani: “The parasite does attack the roots, producing small holes in them. These cavities, however, are immediately filled up by grains of sand that heal the wounds, as it were, allowing the plant to thrive
in spite of Phylloxera.”
Named “Oenotria” by the ancient Greeks for its abundance of grapevines, Italy has always had a culture virtually inextricable from wine. Wine grapes grow in every region throughout Italy—a long and narrow boot-shaped peninsula extending into the Mediterranean.
Italian Wine Regions
Naturally, most Italian wine regions enjoy a Mediterranean climate and a notable coastline, if not coastline on all borders, as is the case with the islands of Sicily and Sardinia. The Alps in the northern regions of Valle d'Aosta, Lombardy and Alto Adige create favorable conditions for cool-climate grape varieties. The Apennine Mountains, extending from Liguria in the north to Calabria in the south, affect climate, grape variety and harvest periods throughout. Considering the variable terrain and conditions, it is still safe to say that most high quality viticulture in Italy takes place on picturesque hillsides.
Italian Grape Varieties
Italy boasts more indigenous grape varieties than any other country—between 500 and 800, depending on whom you ask—and most Italian wine production relies upon these native grapes. In some regions, international varieties have worked their way in, but are declining in popularity, especially as younger growers take interest in reviving local varieties. Most important are Sangiovese, reaching its greatest potential in Tuscany, as well as Nebbiolo, the prized grape of Piedmont, producing single varietal, age-worthy Piedmontese wines. Other important varieties include Corvina, Montepulciano, Barbera, Nero d’Avola and of course the white wines, Trebbiano, Verdicchio and Garganega. The list goes on.
A fantastic, aromatic white grape whose best wines come from a northeastern corner of Sardinia in a region called Gallura. Vermentino di Gallura DOCG, despite its light body, can be decidedly complex. Vermentino also enjoys success in Tuscany and in lesser proportions, grows on the island of Corsica.
In the Glass
Common flavors associated with this wine include pear, white peach, grapefruit, lime zest, fresh almond and crushed rocks. It is dry but fruity with a bright finish. Sardinian producers like to pick early to retain lively acidity but a fuller style has also become popular.
Vermentino does well paired with fresh and simple seafood dishes, pesto, grilled fennel and light appetizers.
Vermentino is thought to be genetically identical to Ligurian’s Pigato grape and Piedmont's Favorita. It comprises a large proportion of the whites in southern France, namely Provence, where it is called Rolle. If you're a fan of Sauvignon blanc, Albariño or Grüner Veltliner, a Vermentino in any of its guises, would be a great pick for you.