Wine label for 2021 Pala "Centosere" Cannonau di Sardegna
Wine label for 2021 Pala "Centosere" Cannonau di Sardegna

Revisiting Cannonau with Pala

550 Words (Or So) on a Spirited Example of Sardinia's Most Important Grape

4 min read

This past week, I had lunch here in Denver with Fabio Angius of the Sardinian wine estate, Pala. He offered me a taste of the winery’s on-point white, rosé and red wines.

Looking at a map, you’d think Sardinia and Sicily were peers in the wine business given their comparable size, but the numbers tell a different story. In 2022, Sardinia produced a mere 7.6 million cases of wine compared to Sicily’s 65 million cases. Along with that significantly smaller volume comes smaller resources for marketing, and even research into grape clonal selection and soil studies — things that often advance and elevate wine regions.

But that’s not the only reason. Some of this disparity lies in the DNA of each island. While neither one has been an economic powerhouse, Sicily has always been a crossroads of the Mediterranean culturally, while Sardinia has always been a bit more inward. As a result, Sardinia’s modern wine industry is a bit of a reflection of that; something Angius is working on by touring the United States with his importer to spread the word for Sardinia.

Given the grape’s long, long history on the island and how that has naturally lent to adaptation and distinction, it seems silly to always talk about Cannonau in terms of Grenache/Garnacha, for which it is very closely allied genetically.

However, I don’t think it’ll take much to get the ball rolling for the island. All the raw ingredients are there for greatness, particularly with Sardinia’s unique cultivars.

Nuragus might be the most compelling, an ancient white grape that Angius claims is even more tannic than Sagrantino! (“Nobody will do skin-contact with Nuragus,” he claimed). Pala’s “Milleluci” bottling of Nurugas (★★★★ 1/2) was my favorite wine of the day, decked head-to-toe in refreshing tropical-meets-lemon tones and kissed with salinity. However, only 2,000 cases are made, so get out your binoculars for the search.

We also tasted the playful “Oltreluna” Monica di Sardegna (★★★★ 1/2) made from the native grape whose name is a twisting of the word monaco since it was grown by monks on the island. “Oltreluna” provided a cord of blackberry juiciness through the mid-palate that would make any Beaujolais fan turn their head. Alas, it too, is a rare wine, with only 2,000 cases made annually as well. There was also a big and powerful Bovale Sardo wine called “Essentija” (★★★★ 1/4) to reflect back the heat and warmth of the Mediterranean.

But I sometimes have to put aside my love of the esoteric (and the eccentric stories that come from it) and focus on wines more readily available to the general public.

Fortunately, there was a lot to like with the central focal point of Pala’s portfolio — really, any Sardinian winery’s portfolio — Cannonau.

Cannonau is closely allied genetically with Grenache/Garnacha. Given Cannonau’s long, long history on the island — and how that has naturally lent to adaptation and distinction — it seems silly to always talk about Grenache in the same breath. Yet in the glass, that is almost always how Cannonau comes across: various tones of strawberry, various herbal traits, and a propensity for higher alcohol.

I am profiling “Centrosere,” the estate’s entry-level, stainless-steel fermented Cannonau di Sardegna here because of its versatility, availability and how familiar it will strike Grenache lovers. But also because it offers something different to the conversation: freshness. To my palate, Cannonau can be more wild and savory than its Spanish and French contemporaries, and this wine offers a glimpse of that. There remains that juicy core and invigorating fruitiness that plays well on summer nights (i.e. a wine that doesn’t complain if you give it a good chill). If you haven’t explored Cannonau di Sardegna, be sure to check out my First-Taste Guide to the wine. I’d certainly add “Centosere” as a good candidate.

2021 Pala “Centosere” Cannonau di Sardegna

Pala 2021 "Centosere" Cannonau di SardegnaCannonau di Sardegna DOC (Sardinia )
Grapes: Cannonau (100%)
Alcohol: 13.5%
Opinion: ★★★★ 1/2
Food-friendliness: Versatile
Value: Very Good

 

A beginner might like … its similarities to Grenache. Strawberry-like fruit and hints of resinous herbs run wild through the nose, while sleek acidity and a firm body give the wine a sneaky persistence.

A wine obsessive might like … its dissimilarities to Grenache. For me, this showed up with a slightly savory, iron-tinged touch. I also found this Cannonau to be a little more malleable to serving contexts than some of its contemporaries, particularly because of its freshness.

 

Note: These wines were tasted as samples with the producer as they passed through Denver. Learn more about our editorial policy.

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