Yes, you…Cannonau

Uncorking a bottle of Giuseppe Sedilesu ‘Mamuthone’ 2013, quite literally, we opened ourselves to another world. Mamoiada in the heart of the Barbagia, north central Sardinia, not far from Nuoro.
It’s the home of those ancient masked Mamuthones.
It’s also Cannonau country.

Here, Cannonau is a very big deal.

It is afterall Sardinia’s go-to, ‘native’ black grape. Located in the hilly terrain around Mamoiada, the Sedilesu winery has 17 hectares of vineyards with more to be planted. At +600 metres above sea level you can already start to think mountainous thoughts. Bush trained vines, unique potassium rich soils and let’s call it a continental climate (cold wet winters, warm summers), it’s curiously unique for an island located in the heart of the Med. And yes, the aforementioned bloomed dark berries thrive here.

Now already some will be shouting at the screen… but they’ve discovered Cannonau is genetically identical to Garnacha and that means Spain is considered the Point of Origin for this variety!

Yep, that appears to be the general view if you are not Sardinian :) However, in Sardinia, they have a rather different take on history. It’s long and totally captivating. So here’s a very brief rough idea.

During the last 10 years or so, archaeological discovery on the island has brought to light that viticulture there has been active for much longer than originally thought. We’re talking certainly more than three Millenia! This follows carbon dating of grape seeds discovered at Nuragic sites on the island. While not identified Cannonau, what’s important is the existence of seeds predating all previously held historical knowledge. Does this move the goal posts? We reckon so. We’re now talking some 3,300 years ago…, certainly before the Romans and most likely before the arrival of the Phoenicians. The suggestion is that vines may well have been brought by the Shardana, early mediterranean seafarers, hailing from the east. Think in terms of modern day Lebanon. At the same time there’s also talk of domestication of native wild vines on the island. Whichever way you want to prune it, one thing is clear, viticultural heritage on the island has some serious history behind it. Data published by researcher Gianni Lovicu is adding significant weight to the debate as it the work of Prof. Gianluigi Bacchetta and his team from the University of Cagliari who’ve recently found more than 15,000 Malvasia and Vernaccia seeds (both native white grape varieties) in almost perfect preserved condition (like fresh) in a nuragic site near Oristano.

Spectacular, as these finds are, their value should not be underestimated.

Yes, DNA studies confirm that Spain has the greatest plant variation and clonal diversity for the Garnacha variety, all of which suggests Aragon, or thereabouts, may well be the point of origin. Word up. But, but, but,… it has to be said that Sardinia’s mounting discoveries are new tantalising indicators. How long before a dated find of some ancient Cannonau pips? Now that would surely throw the Cannonau Cat amongst the DNA pigeons :).

This depth of cultural riches is what makes learning about native grapes and their wines so fascinating. Each one a window to another time. Spare a moment to consider that we actually don’t know it all. Now open a bottle of Giuseppe Sedilesu Mamuthone 2013 and this is what you may find:


Translucent ruby veil…
…Floral mist on ripe forest fruits, blackberry and blackcurrant compote,
lightly resinous whispers of emerging complexity…
…Full bodied, fresh attack underpinned by a pleasurable tannic cradle. Finely balanced, the fruit slides into a spicey, peppery rocket, cigar box with a subtle mediterranean herbal pot pourri of dried sage, rosemary & thyme, a touch pepperminty too…
… When will a new love ever be so giving. And to think that acidity should grant the ’13 additional life and evolving complexity for a few years to come. Just for curiosity, hide a bottle and let’s compare notes in 5! Call it research :)

Stoking the embers as often we do, no doubt this particular ‘native debate’ will run long into the night.

We’ve barely scratched the surface here…. just enough to know we don’t know enough about Cannonau…not yet!!! How ’bout you? Time for a little more self discovery. Heading into the wild to seek out a few mo bottles… ask for Sedilesu, ask for Cannonau di Sardegna……… because in this moment, Cannonau, we is lovin’ where you’re at :)


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