Friday, November 2, 2012

Sella & Mosca 2007 Cannonau di Sardegna Riserva

Producer: Sella & Mosca
Name: Cannonau di Sardegna
Varietal: Cannonau
Region: Sardegna D.O.C., Italy
Vintage: 2007 Riserva
Tasted: October 17, 2012
ABV: 14%

In a recent newsletter, Kermit Lynch asks his esteemed readership to consider whether Corsica is really French. Yes, of course it is administered by the French government, Lynch explains, but that is a happenstance of history and politics, and a relatively recent one at that. Corsica has been subjected to many conquering nations, and their influences, over the centuries, and really it has more to do with Italy geographically, linguistically, culturally, and, of course, viticulturally, than with France.

Lynch's point, which is well-taken, is that one ought not to confuse political association with gastronomic association. Corsica's grapes, the wineries that grow and ferment them, and the wines that arise from them, are all quite patently Italian in nature, if not in bureaucracy.

What is one to make, though, of Sardinia? Sardinians speak an Italian language, are citizens of the Italian nation, and are proud to call themselves Italian. Yet their wines, or at least the grapes used to make them, can be traced back quite directly to Spanish grapes that Spaniards planted there a few short centuries ago. The Spaniards were at liberty to import these vines, furthermore, because for nearly four hundred years they owned the island, and we can be sure that they left behind plenty of Iberian customs and folklore to go along with all of that oenology that they had established. Cannonau, Sardinia's most important red, can be traced straight back to a strain of Garnacha. The wine made from it – the principle product of a proud Italian province's viticultural tradition – tastes rather Spanish. Again, what ought one make of this?

Let's leave that question for now, and turn to the wine itself. Sella & Mosca's 2007 Cannonau di Sardegna Riserva is of a true garnet color. They say that red tones induce energy and agitation, but not this red. It is deep, smooth, relaxing. The aroma is pungent, mostly from the numerous tannins. The main notes are of red berries and plums; some cherries and cranberries make appearances here and there. The wine includes a healthy helping of plum in the palate. There are other miscellaneous reds as well, and plenty of tannins to go around. The level of oakiness is perfect for a wine like this: present, and seamlessly melded into the flavor profile, but so subtle that someone not looking for it will not likely stumble into it, while someone who is looking for it will find that it disappears as soon as a glimpse is caught. One does not need the label to tell that this wine is fourteen percent alcohol, but there is no specific bite to it; it is just a little sharp, is all. Medium bodied, the wine has good structure, quite ideally suited to the flavor profile. The finish is of strawberries, and reds generally.

After aerating for twenty minutes, the Cannonau is not much changed except that it is a little sweeter. The aroma is of plums. The palate, too, includes plums, as well as cherries and even some mild florals. The wine is smoother and boasts a body that, while pleasantly rounder, has no trouble keeping its structure. The finish remains strawberry.

Sometimes wine is a welcome accessory to a relaxing evening. Depending on the food with which it would be paired, this Cannonau may or may not be the right wine for such a context. But quite often, an evening over wine is part of a vivacious and exciting time, and that is really where this would be in its element. This is not to bring up loud or noisy demonstrations of modern collective hedonism, but rather a lively table and a festive event, the kind of atmosphere to set people right among each other. Christmas dinner, or a wedding celebration lasting into the wee hours, are examples that come readily to mind. The Cannonau is bold, fruity, spicy, and delicious, perfect for red meats and a variety of poultry and pasta preparations, and an excellent complement to a bustling congregation of close friends and good company.

Ah, what a beautiful side of life. Quite typical, really, of both Spanish and Italian ways. So, which of those is the most relevant here? We might step back a little, and find accuracy in the broad: the Cannonau is Mediterranean. Indeed, it is so. And yet, that does not really do the trick after all; our finger is not quite on it. The Mediterranean itself, being a bit more obvious of an example, acts as metaphor for why: It is neither European nor Levantine, Anatolian nor African; it is its own entity, greater than the sum of its parts. It would not, could not, be the same without any of them, and yet we do not merely play hopscotch among them in defining it. So, too, ought we take care not to catch ourselves in that paradigm with our Tyrrhenian province here. The Cannonau comes from a small island that entire nations waged war to own; an outpost where classical civilizations sought to build; a little place where emperors schemed big. There is no adjective to do the Cannonau justice, except to read the label right in front of us. It is Sardinian.

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