Sardinia is the second largest Italian island, and it is famous for its pristine beaches and crystal clear waters.
The early winemaking years on the island occurred while it was under Spanish rule, and the winemaking tradition continued throughout the transition to being a part of Italy.
Located in the Mediterranean Sea, Sardinia offers fantastic value for tourists, and there are some great local wines to choose from.
While there are a handful of wine grapes grown here, two main grape varietals dominate the wines of Sardinia.
History of the Wines of Sardinia
The island of Sardinia has been inhabited by humans since the Paleolithic era, and there is evidence that wine has been produced on the island since 1500 BC.
This is the earliest sign of winemaking in the entire region, and certainly in the western Mediterranean area.
In more recent years, the island was under Spanish rule before Italy took claim to it in 1861. The Spanish influence is still very apparent in the local culture, including the food and wine.
The wine grapes and techniques are primarily Spanish, as well as the names of many of the grapes.
Today, Sardinia is best known as a travel and beach destination, and the local taste for quality wine has grown along with the tourism industry.
In years past, there were only a handful of wineries that were highly respected for top-tier winemaking practices.
For many years, the island carried an unfair reputation for only using rustic wine-making techniques, and many wine enthusiasts did not take Sardinian wines seriously in terms of quality.
In recent years, producers have succeeded in implementing modern winemaking techniques.
Winemakers across the island have been increasing the quality of wine as a whole over the past two decades and some of the DOC and IGP level wines today rival bottles from the mainland that can carry double the price tag.
Top Wines of Sardinia, Italy
DOCG (Vermentino di Gallura DOCG)
DOCG stands for “Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita,” and is the highest and most prestigious designation given to wine regions in Italy. There are 74 DOCGs in the country, and there is only one on the island of Sardinia.
The designation was established in the year 1980 with the intention of showcasing the highest quality producers in all of Italy. Vermentino di Gallura DOCG is the only region on the island to receive the designation, and it is well known for producing high-quality Vermentino-based wines.
The minimum alcohol content of wines produced in this region is 12 percent, and can often reach up to 14 percent. Vermentino di Gallura DOCG encompasses a large area that covers a good portion of the northern side of Sardinia.
The producers that qualify for this prestigious designation are well known for producing some of the highest quality wines on the island, and their winemaking practices are on par with more famous producers on the mainland of Italy.
These wines must consist of at least 95 percent Vermentino, and the other five percent may be made up of white wine grapes that are not considered to be aromatic. These wines are almost always dry, and the tasting notes range from floral to mineral based.
This racy white wine is well known for its drinkability and refreshing light body, and it is also one of the best white wines when it comes to food pairing.
Everything from light-bodied proteins like chicken and fish to crunchy vegetable dishes is elevated with a glass of Vermentino di Gallura.
The acidity levels in Vermentino di Gallura DOCG are well balanced to compliment the minerality and floral elements, and these wines are extremely food friendly.
This region also offers some of the greatest value of any DOCG, and bottles are generally priced under $20.
Vigne Surrau Limizzani Vermentino di Gallura is one of the most well-known bottles of wine from this DOCG, with over 600 reviews on the popular online marketplace wine.com.
This affordable bottle of wine offers incredible value, as it was rated 91 points by Wine Enthusiast.
There are 239 different DOCs scattered across the country of Italy, each with its own rules and regulations covering everything from the percentage of grape varietals used to aging requirements and alcohol content.
Sardinia’s 17 DOCs are responsible for over two thirds of all wine produced on the island, and many wine enthusiasts consider these to be some of the best balance of value and quality anywhere in Italy.
The majority of the DOC wine regions are located on the south side and scattered along the west coast of the island of Sardinia.
The majority of wines produced in these regions are white, with Vermentino being one of the most common grape varietals.
- Alghero DOC
- Arborea DOC
- Cagliari DOC
- Campidano di Terralba DOC
- Cannonau di Sardegna DOC
- Carignano del Sulcis DOC
- Girò di Cagliari DOC
- Malvasia di Bosa DOC
- Mandrolisai DOC
- Monica di Sardegna DOC
- Moscato di Sardegna DOC
- Moscato di Sorso-Sennori DOC
- Nasco di Cagliari DOC
- Nuragus di Cagliari DOC
- Sardegna Semidano DOC
- Vermentino di Sardegna DOC
- Vernaccia di Oristano DOC
The Italian wine designation IGP stands for “Indicazione Geografica Tipica,” and is the broadest and least strict of all designations in the country.
Wines with these designations must use grapes from the stated region, though the rules are less stringent than with DOCs.
Wines with the IGP designation are usually the lowest priced, though the pride tag is not always indicative of quality. Some wine producers would rather not deal with the scrutiny and rules that come along with a DOC designation, even if their wines are of very high quality.
While most wines with an IGP designation are fairly affordable, high-quality IGP wineries have made bottles that have aged over 20 years and now sell for over $200.
There are far fewer restrictions with this designation allowing winemakers more flexibility and room to create.
There are 15 different IGP designations across the island of Sardinia, and most of them are specific to certain valleys and traditional wine-making areas.
Wines with IGP designations offer some of the best value of any on the island of Sardinia, and most cost under $15 per bottle.
- IGP Barbagia
- IGP Colli del Limbara
- IGP Isola dei Nuraghi
- IGP Marmilla
- IGP Nurra
- IGP Ogliastra
- IGP Parteolla
- IGP Planargia
- IGP Provincia di Nuoro
- IGP Romangia
- IGP Sibiola
- IGP Tharros
- IGP Trexenta
- IGP Valle del Tirso
- IGP Valli di Porto Pino
Cannonau is the most widely planted grape on the island and accounts for 35 percent of all wine grapes grown in Sardinia.
Better known as Grenache when grown in its native France, this red wine grape dominates wine plantings toward the center and south side of the island.
Wines made from the Cannonau grape on the island of Sardinia are generally fairly high in alcohol, and the acidity levels are usually low. The tasting notes range from red and black fruit to tobacco and chocolate.
Cannonau is an extremely versatile wine grape, and its bold flavors and deep pigment make it a perfect choice for blending. It is also known to contain up to three times the amount of antioxidants as other red wine grape varietals.
Dolia Cannonau Di Sardegna is one of the most well-known and most popular representations of the Cannau grape from the island of Sardinia.
This affordable wine is known for its full juicy body, as well as its intense flavors of black fruit and cassis.
28 percent of all wine grapes grown on the island of Sardinia are Vermentino, and this is the primary grape used in the highest quality bottles of Sardinian wine with the highest price tags.
This grape is known for its bright and fresh characteristics coupled with its light body.
Vermentino is a thin-skinned white grape, and the flavors it produces are often similar to that of grapefruit, lime, flowers, and green apples. Many wine enthusiasts consider the flavor profiles and acidity levels similar to that found in Sauvignon Blanc or Albarino.
This is one of the most versatile wine grapes when it comes to wine pairing, and this crisp and acidic white wine compliments everything from fish and chicken to vegetable-based dishes.
This is also the primary grape featured in the island’s only DOCG.
Wines of Sardinia – Conclusion
While the island of Sardinia produces less wine than any other Italian wine region, it is home to a variety of high-quality wine producers.
There are 17 DOCs and 15 IGPs here, along with one DOCG, the highest Italian wine designation. Sardinia is one of the best-kept secrets in the Italian wine world, and the wine produced there is incredibly unique and delicious.
Be sure to comment below with some of your favorite bottles of wine from the island of Sardinia.