Cheers to longevity
Sardinian wine may hold key to a long life
CANNONAU di sardegna may be earning its fame as the longevity grape from Sardinia but for all the touted health benefits it offers, it is a remarkably palatable drop. The “it’s good for you” spin may be the work of clever local marketeers but what is beyond doubt is the tiny island of Sardinia in the Tyrrhenian Sea has one of the world’s highest concentrations of centenarians on the planet. In fact, on Sardinia, the population of 1.61 million people have more than 370 (at last count) who are over one hundred years of age. This means on the tiny autonomous island region of Italy you are at least 20 times more likely to live to the age of 100, than if you live in the US. While no one really knows the secret to Sardinian longevity, it is widely believed the local diet and lifestyle is a key contributor to their long life expectancy. These Sardinian locals are generally active, work well beyond 65, eat a lot of grains and vegetables and very little meat. Perhaps also of significance is the fact that on most days, they enjoy a couple of glasses of their local wines. The fava beans and chickpeas are typically washed down by a glass of the cannonau di sardegna, which is the local name for grenache. In fact, some research suggests the grenache grape may have originated in Sardinia, rather than France. The cannonau style accounts for about 20% of all wine made on the island and in order to meet the DOC criteria must have a minimum alcohol concentration of 13% and be aged for at least two years prior to release. The hot, arid climate on the island is perfectly suited to growing grenache and the cannonau grapes in particular, as they have a very thick and hard outer skin. It is this same substantial outer layer that imparts the antioxidants that are thought to contribute to the health value of the wine – mainly because the skin is high in cardiac-friendly antioxidants anthocyanins and polyphenols. A delicious example of the style is the Costera Cannonau di Sardegna Argiolas 2014 ($38), which I had to order from a Melbourne importer. It’s rather ruby-esque in the glass and delivers nuances of cloves and bramble on the nose. Once the whiffing is done, layers of sweet blueberries and stewed plums present themselves across the palate. I am a little surprised the tannic influence is so relatively moderate given the skin contact and the liquorice and cranberry characters can overcome the savoury middle and evolve through the finish. I’d describe it as being of only medium-palate weight but it is a wine that is thoroughly approachable in its youth and I’m confident the tannins will soften with time. So if you are a believer in the Sardinian story and want to drink your way to long life, this may well be the wine for you – and possibly even justify a tipple on what would otherwise be one of those midweek alcohol-free days. Travis is a Sunshine Coast businessman with a passion for food and wine.
THE OUTER LAYER OF THE CANNONAU GRAPE IS HIGH IN ANTIOXIDANTS