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A Wine Lover’s Guide to Gallura, Sardinia

If Italian wines aren’t enough to wrap your head around, Sardinian wine needs its own chapter. The island is kept constantly cool (or at least cooler than many places at the same latitude) by the endless breezes blowing off the Tyrrhenian Sea. That means the whites are much fresher and more mineral, and the reds far less jammy, than you might imagine for such a Mediterranean climate. There are also a whopping 120 grape varieties that are native to Sardinia. And while you’ll find some international staples and several Italian favourites, there are plenty you won’t find anywhere else in the world. All of which makes Sardinia an enticing destination for wine lovers.
 

Transport to, and travel around, Sardinia

Before we get into where to taste Sardinian wine, you’re going to need to get there. As we were staying in Santa Teresa Gallura, we flew into Olbia airport in the north of the island. It’s served by several airlines, including easyJet, Transavia, Air France and Lufthansa but you can compare times and prices among all airlines on sites like Skyscanner, Expedia and GoEuro. From the airport, there are buses but we found it helpful to rent a car so that we had more freedom to explore. Needless to say, most of Sardinia’s wineries are not in the town centres so the ability to drive into the countryside is a distinct plus.

Vermentino wine from Sardinia

Vermentino is the white jewel in Sardinia’s crown, dominating wine lists wherever you go. And for good reason: as a grape, it’s naturally fresh, fruity and floral – often hinting at almonds or sea salt. It makes a lovely aperitif on a sunny day, but it also goes well with the island’s many seafood dishes. If you prefer a richer style, look for a late-harvest Vermentino that’s a little lower in acidity. The northernmost region of the island, known as Gallura, is home to the only DOCG for Vermentino in Sardinia: look for “Vermentino di Gallura DOCG” for the best quality wines. You’ll find plenty of them at the wineries and wine bars in Gallura below.

Cannonau wine from Sardinia

While I’d tried Vermentino before I went to Sardinia, I’d never come across the island’s signature red grape: Cannonau. With its ripe red fruit, silky tannins and full body, I liked it immediately – and it came as no surprise that Cannonau is in fact the Sardinian name for Grenache, one of my favourite grapes. Again, we tried various different styles of Cannonau-based wines, from younger, fresher examples to smooth, mature, “riserva” wines. Cannonau also works well in blends (just like Grenache), so you’ll spot it in a lot of Sardinia’s IGT wines alongside other local and international grapes. Unsurprisingly, all of these work well with some classic Sardinian dishes: gnocchetti with wild boar, roast suckling pig and pecorino Sardo. But you should read my other article for more details on Sardinian food and where to eat it in Gallura.

Cannonau di Sardegna from Tenute Rossini Rolù

Wineries to visit in Gallura, Sardinia

Cantina Jankara, Sant’Antonio di Gallura

Despite its location in the village of Sant’Antonio di Gallura rather than in among the vineyards, Cantina Jankara was my favourite winery visit and tasting during our stay in Sardinia. On arrival, owner Renato gave us a fairly quick tour of the winery, but you’re welcome to ask lots of questions if you’re a wine geek like me. The standard tasting offers five wines from across Jankara’s portfolio, plus a generous selection of Sardinian cheeses, cured meats, grilled vegetables and bread. We sat among the wine bottles in the tasting room, but you can perch at one of the barrels outside if it’s warm.

A rare photo of me at Cantina Jankara, because my phone was broken!

I’d tried Jankara’s Vermentino and Cannonau before, so I was most excited by their IGT wines. Their Colli del Limbara IGT Lu Nieddu is an approachable field blend of six different grapes, from Cabernet Franc to Cannonau to Caricagiola, all harvested at the same time from old vines and aged for 12 months in French oak. The next level up is somewhat similar in terms of its process, but the vineyards are at 755 metres above sea level, giving rise to what Renato describes as a “Super Sardinian” (like a Super Tuscan): a meaty, masculine, stallion of a wine that’s not to be toyed with. Superb.

Tenuta Petra Bianca, Palau

In contrast, Petra Bianca is a pastoral idyll of what a winery should look like: nestled into the hillside overlooking the vineyards and the ocean beyond. So it’s no wonder they’ve decided to make it into an agriturismo for overnight stays and a centre for yoga retreats, too. But you’re here for the wine. Petra Bianca offers a couple of different tasting options, of which we went for the “Tasting Su Còro” comprising three glasses: a late-harvest Vermentino, a rosé made from Cagnulari and an organic Cannonau, with a few snacks alongside. While I was less enthralled by the wines themselves, Petra Bianca takes the prize for the most idyllic location.

Winery with a view at Petra Bianca

Società Agricola Siddura, Luogosanto

The ritziest of the three wineries, Siddura oozes wealth: well-manicured vineyards, beautifully maintained buildings, temperature-controlled tasting rooms… Unsurprisingly, it’s also the most expensive: packages range from a straightforward “technical tasting” to a lengthy tour by golf cart. You might already recognise Siddura’s wines when you walk in, as their signature “S” logo is so memorable that you’re likely to spot it on bottles in Sardinia’s restaurants and bars pretty quickly. Fortunately, however, it’s not a case of style over substance: Siddura’s wines are as high-quality as their winery. I loved the depth and richness of their “Maia” Vermentino and the delicate cherry smoothness of their “Bacco” Carignano, and we ended up taking several bottles home with us.

The iconic S of Siddura’s bottles

Wine bars in Gallura, Sardinia

Enoteca la Bottega, Santa Teresa Gallura

Enoteca la Bottega is an atmospheric wine shop in Santa Teresa Gallura that also has barrels set up as tables where you can order wines to drink by the glass or bottle. They have a large selection of natural wines and local grapes you’ve probably never heard of – Monica, Bovale or Torbato, anyone? – but the knowledgeable staff are happy to explain everything and help you pick a wine you’ll like. I fell in love with De Vidda: an old-vine Cannonau that was super smooth with ripe tannins, despite having only been aged in stainless steel and bottle (no oak at all!). On my last night in Santa Teresa Gallura, I also enjoyed the Vermentino “Fria” by Deperu Holler: a blend of early-, mid- and late-harvested grapes that showed perfect zesty salinity.

Enoteca la Bottega’s huge selection of wines and top-notch snacks

Goblet Wine Bar, Palau

We arrived in Palau just as Goblet Wine Bar was closing… But in one of those rare moments that can absolutely make your day, the owner decided to reopen – just for us. From that point on, things got better and better. We were a bit obsessed with his rosés, both sparkling and still. The “Mora & Memo” managed to be at once bone dry but with notes of caramel and strawberry jam. Food-wise, we enjoyed the aubergine parmigiana and burrata salad, but the best part came when the aforementioned bar owner made a kind of deconstructed tiramisu right there at the table. It didn’t hurt that he was rather easy on the eye and had the girls (and the boys) all swooning…

Da Mastrò Ristowine, Santa Teresa Gallura

Da Mastrò Ristowine was my favourite spot for aperitivo in Santa Teresa Gallura, and we found ourselves gravitating back there many times over the five weeks of our stay. There are plenty of wines by the glass (including several that are off menu), the staff are immediately friendly (they will even indulge your broken Italian), and they do the best snacks in town. Try the Oscarì: a traditional method Sardinian sparkling white made from the Torbato grape by the popular Sella & Mosca house.

Sardinian sparkling and super snacks at Da Mastrò

Shardana, Santa Teresa Gallura

Again, Shardana is a shop and wine bar in one – offering a wider range of food for the hungry wine lover, too. Their taglieri (meat and cheese boards) come in various shapes and sizes, and all those we tried were top notch: think pecorino Sardo, ricotta, coppa di Parma, salame, bresaola and much more that I can’t remember. Shardana specialises in wines from small-scale, local producers, and the helpful bar owner is happy to make recommendations (including off-menu bottles).

Planning a culinary trip to the north of Sardinia? Check out my Sardinia restaurant guide too!

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