Antonella Corda recently introduced us to Sardinian wines at a virtual wine tasting arranged by Studio Cru. We share what we learned.
Sardinia is an island in the Mediterranean off the coast of Italy so one might jump to the conclusion that it is insular. In some respects that is true. Like many hidden jewels in Italy, the region has its own unique culture and traditions—and even its own dialect—that has been well-preserved.
But the foods and wines of Sardinia also reflect a fusion of cultures. Winemaking in the region dates back as far as the 15th century, making it one of the oldest sites of viniculture in the Mediterranean. Still subject to debate is whether the origins of the grapes used to create today’s Sardinian wines are indigenous ones or were imported by traders from Phoenicia, Spain, and Corsica, says wine writer Patricia Thomson. Even the delicious foods of Sardinia blend ingredients and techniques adapted from the French, Spanish, and Moors.
The winemaker: Antonella Corda
Antonella Corda represents a thoroughly modern iteration of Sardinian winemakers although you might say that wine runs through her blood. She represents the fifth generation of a family of winegrowers and was literally raised in the family vineyards where she learned about the grapes from both her parents and grandparents.
Her grandfather, who died in 2009 at the age of 102, was Antonio Argiolas, the first vintner to introduce modern winemaking technology to Sardinia after a trip to California.
Antonella inherited the land from her mother and her appreciation of fine wines from her father. Trained as an agronomist at the University of Sassari (in Sardinia), she obtained specialized training in wine management in the north of Italy (Trentino Alto Adige) before returning home.
In 2010, she inherited the family business from her mother and launched her own label, hoping to accomplish something her mother never dreamed she could do herself. Bringing an abundance of energy, expertise, and vision to her work, Antonella has been able to revitalize and reshape the family winery. Her success was recognized by Gambero Rosso when it named it the 2019 Emerging Winery of the Year.
Her namesake brand, Antonella Corda, respects the heritage of traditional grape varieties, such as Vermentino and Cannonau, and aims to raise the profile of forgotten ones like Nuragus.
The Antonella Corda winery is located in the commune of Serdiana, about 12 miles north of the city of Cagliari, the island’s capital city. The winery covers some 40 hectares, with 15 hectares of vineyards, 12 hectares for olives, and the remainder for crop rotation.
With soil composed primarily of sand, clay, and loam—this area in southern Sardinia is known for its agricultural products such as olives, wheat, and wine. Its warm Mediterranean climate cooled by mistral winds from the north is ideal for grape-growing.
Antonella’s inherited estate includes two main manicured vineyards, Mitza Manna and Mitz S’ollastu. The first stretches over 6 hectares, where native white Vermentino and Nuragus grapes are grown. The second, spanning over 10 hectares, is cultivated with native Vermentino and Cannonau, on soil that is also rich with pebbles, giving the wine its balanced character.
The young winemaker recognizes the importance of sustainable farming so she can pass on the legacy of the land to the next generation. Her “organic certified” winery relies upon organic fertilizers, integrated pest control, and sustainable irrigation systems. All the grapes are hand-harvested.
Antonella Corda Wines
We were introduced to Antonella Corda at a virtual tasting that took place one week before she was due to give birth to her first child. She was joined by her colleague, Andrea Carpi, and the father-daughter team of David and Hope Shivarick, the U.S. importers and distributors of the wines.
We tasted four easy-to-drink wines that skillfully balance sweetness with freshness:
Vermentino di Sardegna DOC 2020
These light-skinned grapes are grown near the coastline in a number of regions across Italy (including Liguria and Tuscany) and are the leading grape of Sardinia. This dry white wine, made of 100% Vermentino grapes, is complex and intense. It offers tastes of orange, other fruits, herbs, and almonds with a satisfying mineral aftertaste, pairing exceptionally well with fish and seafood dishes.
Nuragus di Cagliari DOC 2020
The most typical wine of Sardinia, Antonella says that this wine “carries with itself the savory notes of Sardinian’s seas.” While not so well known in the U.S., it is a popular house wine on the island.
Made with 100% Nuragus grapes, the wine is a bright straw color, medium-bodied, with a fresh taste of apples and pears. Like the wines of her grandfather, this wine has a low production (only 7000 bottles produced each year) to maintain the emphasis on quality. It pairs exceptionally well with aperitivos like raw fish and oysters.
Ziru Isola dei Nuraghi
Aged for two years, this golden, full-bodied white wine is made with native, skin-fermented Vermentino grapes aged in amphora. (Its name derives from the ancient amphorae once used to store oil and wine). It blends a complex floral bouquet with strong fruity and mineral notes. Because the wine is unfiltered, its appearance may appear a bit hazy. It has a long-lasting finish and pairs well with vegetables and shellfish. This wine has the lowest level of production of the four we tasted (less than 3000 bottles a year).
Cannonau di Sardegna DOC 2019
This elegant, full-bodied red wine (made with 90% Cannonau and 10% Syrah grapes) has a transparent ruby color. Connonau is the Sardinian name for French Grenache grapes. The wine tastes crisp and easy to drink, offering the aroma of small red fruits and berries enhanced by vanilla, white pepper, and herbs. The 2016 vintage was awarded Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri.
The wine is macerated in stainless steel tanks followed by 6 months of aging in non-toasted oak barrels. Several studies looking at the longevity of Sardinians suggest that the antioxidant properties of this grape lead to lower levels of stress and improved heart health. The wine pairs well with medium-aged cheese, roasted meats, and seared tuna.
Wines made with passion
We thoroughly enjoyed learning about these new-to-us wines from a boutique winery that seems poised for even greater success. The wines reflect the love and passion of the winemaker, aptly captured by its slogan: Antonella Cora, di madre in vigna (from the mother to the vine).
Disclosure: We received bottles of Antonella Corda wines for this tasting but any opinions expressed in this post are our own.
IF YOU GO
Antonella Gorda Winery
Information about Visit the winery for tours and tastings.
Official Sardinia Tourism website.
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