Cannonau di Sardegna is a red wine from the Italian island of Sardinia. It is made from Cannonau, the local name for the Grenache – one of Sardinia's most successful wine grapes. It has long been thought that the variety arrived on Sardinia with the Aragonese when they conquered the island in the early 14th Century (from what is now Aragon). However, in the past few years, Italian researchers have uncovered evidence suggesting that Cannonau (and therefore Grenache) may well have originated right here on Sardinia.
The region-wide Cannonau di Sardegna DOC title covers the entire island, from Sulcis and Cagliari in the south to Gallura in the north – a distance of approximately 175 miles (265km). It was introduced in June 1972, roughly the same time as its Muscat-based equivalent Moscato di Sardegna. Roughly one bottle in every five of Sardinian wine is a Cannonau di Sardegna.
Both red and rosé wines are produced under the title, with aged riserva and fortified liquoroso forms of the reds. To earn the additional title riserva, a Cannonau di Sardegna wine must have a minimum alcoholic strength of 13% alcohol by volume, and have been aged for at least two years before commercial release. This is known as affinamento obbligatorio (obligatory ageing period). Six months of this ageing period must be spent in barrels made of chestnut or, more commonly, oak. (© Copyright Material, Wine-Searcher)
As with many Sardinian wines, there is a fortified version of Cannonau di Sardegna, identified by the mention liquoroso on the label. These wines are sweeter and higher in alcohol, typically reaching an alcoholic strength between 17.5% (the legal minimum) and 20% alcohol by volume. These are intensely sweet, flavorful wines best matched to desserts, particularly those involving figs, prunes, dark chocolate or baked fruits. Even though the terms liquoroso and secco (dry) may seem mutually exclusive, there is also a secco version of these fortified wines.
The finest examples of Cannonau di Sardegna are arguably from the eastern half of the island, in the Nuoro, Ogliastra and Cagliari provinces. Within these provinces, three sub-regions have been officially recognized as areas delivering Cannonau wines of particular quality. The first is Nepente di Oliena (or Oliena), which is exclusively for wines from the town of Oliena, in the eastern Nuoro province. The second is Capo Ferrato (not to be confused with Cap Ferrat on the coast of Provence), which applies to the communes of Castiadas, Muravera, San Vito, Villaputzu and Villasimius in the island's south-eastern corner. The third is Jerzu, which applies exclusively to wines from the Jerzu and Cardedu communes.