Anchored off Italy’s west coast, the island of Sardinia offers some distinctive wines at compelling prices. Even familiar grapes — many of which have Spanish origins — take on a unique character as a result of the bright Sardinian sunshine and fierce north-blowing sirocco winds that originate in the Sahara. While wines can sometimes lack polish, they more than make up for any deficiencies by delivering a sense of place. It is a great region for the adventurous wine drinker.

Cannonau is a one of the Sardinia’s best options. Better known throughout the world as garnacha or grenache, thick-skinned, late-ripening cannonau yields big, brawny wines. Typically low in acidity and tannins, they offer rich flavors of dark fruit (raspberries and cherries), coffee, licorice and chocolate, often with trademark notes of herb and spice. To put Sardinia’s cannonaus into perspective: they share greater similarities with versions from Spain’s Catalunya than those of France’s southern Rhône, favoring fruit over earth and higher alcohol (often around 15%), characteristics likely attributable to the warmer temperatures. Very flexible reds, they offer exceptional price-value. For the highest quality varietal wines, look for the following Cannonau di Sardegna DOC* sub-areas: Capo Ferrato, Jerzu and Oliena. Cannonau also makes excellent full-bodied dry rosés.

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