Italian wine: The Cultural Heritage of Mamuthone and Cannonau

May 19, 2019 201

This month we are highlighting the island wines of Italy.  Obviously a broad range as Italy has over 450 islands with some of the largest being Sicily and Sardinia.  There are plenty of wonderful smaller islands to explore that produce wine as well including Capri, Ischia, Elba and more.  I’m taking you to the island of Sardinia, known as Sardegna in Italian.  It is the 2ndlargest island in Italy.  I actually brought this wine back from Italy a couple years ago as I was browsing a wine shop in Verona.  Since it was a wine I'd never seen or tried I had to take it home and no better than the present to try it. 

The Winery 

Azienda Giuseppe Sedilesu is situated amongst the Barbagia mountains in the tiny village ofMamoiada.  The winery began 35 years ago from a purchase of 1 hectacre of land by Giuseppe and Grazia Sedilesu and was a venture with their 3 children, whom now manage the winery today.  The winery has grown to 15 hectacres and 95% of their vines are planted to the cannonau grape with the other 5% a white grape, granazza. 

The wine had always been sold in bulk on the island, but in 2000 when the children took over they decided to bottle it for the market and doubled their production 10 years later and built new cellars. 

The Grape 

Cannonau is the most planted grape on the island of Sardinia and is what the Sardinians take great pride in.  If you’re familiar with grenache then cannonau comes from the same grape variety, but recent research shows that cannonau does originate from Sardinia and wasn’t transplanted from Spain where you’re most familiar with grenache or garnacha.  It’s a wine that will trick you with its color as its lighter color doesn’t lend to its medium body, rustic, earthy nature rich of red fruits.  It is a wine that is ageworthy.  Some of the best examples can be found in the centrals areas heading east into the Nuoro province in the area of Nepente di Oliena as well as Ogliastra and Oliena.

The Wine 

The wine is named after the mamuthone masks that are used in the masquerade and sacred rituals of the area.  I’m not going to lie that these masks are a little intimidating as they’re paraded through the streets.  Those participating carry 60 pounds of cow bells on their backs to ward off the evil spirits and are covered in black sheepskins with hand-carved wooden black masks upon their face.  Bonfires are lit at night with dancing in the piazzas.  The event takes place January 17th honoring St. Anthony as well as in February during Carnival.  It represents a transition of seasons of winter into spring with the promise of good fortune in the upcoming harvests.  Regardless, it’s a tradition that dates back thousands of years.  

2012 Giuseppe Sedilesu Mamuthone Cannonau di Sardegna DOC 

This is their flagship wine produced from 100% cannonauand aged 12 months in barrel and at least 3 months in the bottle.   Ruby in color leaning more towards a brick red.  Rich, ripe red fruits on the nose.  The alcohol was apparent on the palate, full bodied and dense with firm tannins and acid with some spice and plenty of blackberries, currants and cherry.  Finishing off with oak and vanilla and some nice length. ABV 15% SRP $27  

Wine pairing: The winery suggests the following as potential wine pairings with cannnonau “handmade pasta filled with ricotta and herbs, dishes based on sheep meat, vegetables soups, stewed potatoes with legumes and wild herbs, roasted suckling pork, pecorino cheese and the typical cold meats.”  I had intentions to pair this with lamb meatballs with a dash of mint, but unforeseen circumstances this week took over. 

Sardinians are known for living long lives of 90+ years due to their diets and with a healthy dose of cannonau I’m sure that helps the longevity!

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