Sella & Mosca Terre Rare Carignano del Sulcis Riserva (2005)

One doesn’t think of Sardinia when first thinking of Italian wine. (Sardinians probably don’t even consider their wine to be Italian!) In my own journey to try all shapes and sizes of Italian wine, I must admit that Sardinia is rather low on the list. Nothing against it, of course; it’s just that there are so many to try from the mainland.

That said, when this wine appeared in the Pennsylvania Chairman’s Selection program for a paltry $7.99, it had to be tried. Interestingly enough, despite Sardinia’s relatively low profile in the wine world, Sella & Mosca is one of the largest wine estates in Europe, with over 1200 acres under vine. In addition, it has been owned by the huge Campari group since 2002.

So here I was, thinking that I had a bottle of wine from the biggest producer on the island, readily available in the states — which must mean that Carignano is the main grape of Sardinia, right?

Apparently not. The main Sella & Mosca estate is located in the northwest corner of Sardinia, where no carignano grapes actually grow. In fact, S&M is more well known for their other wines, including the indigenous grapes Vermintino and Cannonau (aka Grenache), as well as their international blends (mainly using Cabernet). In terms of red wine, Cannonau is the most prevalent grape on the island, with the international varieties gaining ground in recent years. Carignano, on the other hand, is only grown in the small Sulcis region of the southwest corner of the island, outside Calgari (where S&M owns a small vineyard).

 

According to the The Oxford Companion to Wine, Carignano is “high in everything – acidity, tannin, color, bitterness – except finesse and charm.” From my limited experience, I must disagree. This wine had finesse and subtlety, although it certainly as high in acidity and tannin. Though Carignano is also known for being inky and rich, this wine was closer to elegant.

Tasting Notes:

Despite coming from a conglomerate, this wine does not taste mass produced at all. It is definitively old world in style, with subtle flavors and a lot of earthy characteristics. It does have aggressive acidity and tannins, which makes it a great food wine. I had a bit of a two-faced experience with it, which made the drinking process rather adventurous. On some sips, the fruit was central, with notes of cranberry and strawberry and moderate to high acidity. On other sips, I got earth & minerals, with a strong dose of drying tannin.

The best match I found was a pizza made with speck and smoked mozzarella. The smoky pizza made the wine seem fuller and richer, and cut through the acid and tannin. This wine would also, of course, make a great match with a traditional Sardinian roast pig, which also would feature a fair amount of smoke flavor.

For $8, the QPR on this wine is off the charts.

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