Elixir of life

Yorkshire Post - YP Magazine - - Front Page -

Sardinia is known for its cen­te­nar­i­ans and the lo­cals be­lieve their wine holds the an­swer. Good health!

Giovanni Loi sat at the front of the hall for the lec­ture by the learned pro­fes­sor. The sub­ject was age, some­thing Giovanni knows a lot about. He is 98, looks about 70 and is a fit as a fid­dle. He walked up the steep hill to the lec­ture and was go­ing to walk home af­ter­wards. After all, he is al­most a young­ster when com­pared with oth­ers in his com­mu­nity in the hills of Sardinia. The old­est per­son recorded here was 113, but in the last 20 years there have been over 3000 cen­te­nar­i­ans, out of just 1.6 mil­lion peo­ple.

This has put Sardinia and in par­tic­u­lar the moun­tain­ous area of Oglias­tra on the east­ern side of the is­land, amongst the very few places in the world where peo­ple live sig­nif­i­cantly longer, health­ier lives. This is known as a ‘Blue Zone’.

And the se­cret of their long life? Un­doubt­edly there are many fac­tors, but Giovanni is con­vinced it is the wine. ‘A glass of Can­nonau ev­ery day is good, two are even bet­ter,’ he said.

Can­nonau is the lo­cal name for the Gar­nacha grape. It is the same as the Gar­nacha of Spain, but it is be­lieved that this par­tic­u­lar va­ri­ety is an an­cient strain that over the cen­turies has adapted it­self to the steep slopes, high al­ti­tude and cli­mate of this is­land. It is dark in colour and high in polyphe­nols, es­pe­cially when grown at higher al­ti­tudes and it is this fac­tor which may have an in­flu­ence on the longevity of the lo­cals. The flavours change with al­ti­tude too. Lower al­ti­tude wines are lively, fresh and full of cherry fruit but at higher al­ti­tudes the flavours are deeper, more con­cen­trated and struc­tured.

Can­nonau makes up al­most 30 per cent of Sardinia’s vine­yard area with the ma­jor­ity grown on the hilly east­ern side of the is­land but this is not a place of vast vine­yards stretch­ing over the hori­zon. Most grapes are cul­ti­vated by fam­i­lies who have a few hectares of vines as well as sheep, olives and other crops. Many send their grapes to be made into wine at the lo­cal co-op­er­a­tives known as Cantina So­ciale, but re­cently things have started to change. There is more fo­cus on in­di­vid­ual wine­mak­ers, smaller, well-equipped winer­ies and a def­i­nite drive to pro­duce qual­ity wines.

At Viti­coltori Della Ro­man­gia there are just 10 mem­bers with 58 hectares be­tween them. By con­cen­trat­ing on qual­ity, and avoid­ing oak, they are mak­ing wines that demon­strate Can­nona’s vi­brant red fruits, with touches of liquorice, spice and a struc­tured yet soft fin­ish. It is wines like this that go so well with the lo­cal food, roast lamb, bar­be­cued sausages and pecorino cheese.

The co-op­er­a­tive in Jerzu is much big­ger with 430 farm­ers but here too there have been changes. The old win­ery is still in place, its mas­sive con­crete heart trans­formed into of­fices and a rooftop tast­ing room, but there is a new win­ery with new tanks, and a new phi­los­o­phy. Wine­maker Re­nato Loss is con­vinced that the fu­ture of Can­nonau wines is at the fruity, nonoak aged end of the spec­trum, where the grape’s nat­u­ral ex­u­ber­ance can shine.

At the fam­ily-owned win­ery of Cantina Giuseppe Sedilesu in the hills of Mamoida there is a sparkling new win­ery to han­dle mainly Can­nonau but also some of the his­toric old grapes still be­ing grown. Or­ganic, and in some places, bio­dy­namic viti­cul­ture is creat­ing in­di­vid­ual styles.

While Can­nonau is the flag­ship grape, there are ex­cel­lent wines made from old Carig­nano vines. They are vel­vety soft, with plum, black pep­per and herbal notes. Try Carig­nano del Sul­cis ‘Ne­gro­miniera’ from Field and Fawcett (£11.60).

There are ex­cel­lent white wines too, in par­tic­u­lar the re­fresh­ing Ver­mentino di Sardegna which is light and lemon­fresh and acts as a great aper­i­tif. Try

Nord Est Ver­mentino 2015 at Ma­jes­tic (£7.99). Sardinia is also work­ing on its sparkling wines. I tasted one that had been aged un­der the sea for six months in an ex­per­i­ment. Whilst this is prob­a­bly not com­mer­cially ex­portable, it does show that Sar­dinian wine over­all is push­ing for­ward with ex­per­i­ments in wine­mak­ing.

Sar­dinian Can­nonau wine is still dif­fi­cult to find but most in­de­pen­dent wine mer­chants in our re­gion have at least one. Try Halifax Wine Co. for the ex­cel­lent, cherry and black­berry style Can­nonau di Sardegna ‘Ton­aghe’ 2015 from Con­tini (£13.50) or the ro­bust, deep flavours of Primo Scuro Mesa Can­nonau 2015 from Roberts and Speight (£11.99). Who knows, if we all drink one glass of Can­nonau a day,

HELP THE AGED: Har­vest time in Sardinia; in­set, a glass of Can­nonau a day keeps the doc­tor away for 98 year-old Giovanni Loi.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.