Cannonau di Sardegna is a wine DOC in Sardinia, introduced in June 1972, roughly the same time as its Muscat-based equivalent Moscato di Sardegna. This is a regional DOC which covers the entire island, from Sulcis and Cagliari in the south to Gallura in the north – a distance of approximately 175 miles (265km). Both red and rose wines are produced under the title, the red wines also being available in aged riserva and fortified liquoroso forms.
As made clear by the title, Cannonau di Sardegna wine is made from Cannonau, a red-grape variety cultivated mostly in the eastern side of the island, typically in bush form rather than trained along trellises. Cannonau is in fact the Sardinian name for France's Grenache (Spain's Garnacha), one of the most widely planted wine-grape varieties in the world.
To earn the additional title riserva, Cannonau di Sardegna wines must have a minimum alcoholic strength of 13 per cent alcohol by volume, and have been aged for at least two years after 1 December of the harvest year – their affinamento obbligatorio (obligatory ageing period). Six months of this ageing period must be spent in barrels made of chestnut or, more commonly, oak.
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.
There are three sub-denominations available to those Cannonau di Sardegna wines made from grapes grown in specific communes around the island. These have been identified as areas delivering particularly desirable wines. The first is Nepente di Oliena (or Oliena), which pertains to 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.