Santadi Terre Brune Carignano del Sulcis Superiore 2012
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.”
While picturesque hillsides, endless coastlines and a favorable climate serve to unify the grape-growing culture of this country. The apparent never-ending world of indigenous grape varieties gives Italy an unexampled charm and allure. From the steep inclines of the Alps to the sprawling, warm, coastal plains of the south, red grape varieties thrive throughout.
The kings of Italy, wines like Barolo and Barbaresco (made of Nebbiolo), and Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino (made of Sangiovese), as well as Amarone (mostly Corvina), play center stage for the most lauded, collected and cellar-worthy reds. Less popular but entirely deserving of as much praise are the wines made from Aglianico, Sagrantino and Nerello Mascalese.
For those accustomed to drinking New World reds, the south is the place to start. Grapes like Negroamaro or Primitvo from Puglia and Nero d’Avola from Sicily make soft, ammicable, full-bodied, fruit-dominant wines. Curious palates should be on the lookout for Cannonau, Lagrein, Teroldego, Ruché, Freisa, Cesanese, Schiopettino, Rossese and Gaglioppo to name a few.