Sardegna Uncorked: 2006 Santa Maria la Palma, Cagnulari, Alghero

“The ideal place for me is the one in which it is most natural to live as a foreigner.” – Italo Calvino

Uncorking a bottle of wine from previously unexplored wine regions is one of my favorite things to do; so let's head over to a beautiful island just off the coast of Italy. It is called Sardinia (Sardegna), and it's the second largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. The sea itself plays an exciting role in the climate of the island, bringing cooling influences well inland. The winery Santa Maria la Palma is itself located not too far from the port at Porto Torres near the northern end of the Sardinia.

This Spanish transplant (expat) grape is known Cagnulari (a rare wine bearing grape) used to make this wine is grown in the Villa Assunta district, where the soil is chalk and said to be very beneficial to ensure perfect ripening. Similar to the story of Malbec which has found its ideal home in Argentina, the Cagnulari grape has found a comfortable habitat, a place to call home, in the Alghero region of Sardina. The history of the island is long and varied, influences abound from many cultures dating back to Roman conquest and Greek thought. Today, it's a proud and industrious island people who cling firmly to their traditions, while embracing the way forward.

This was my first encounter with this grape or the wine-region, ever, and I must say I was really impressed by its overall finesse, power, and balance. It's really funny that I ran into this wine while I was in China a few years ago and it made just now recall that famous Beach Boy's song, "I get Around" because like them I get bugged driving up down the same old strip, I want to go where the wines are hip". Today, this is the kind of wine, you think of as a complete hipster wine-list choice, only found on a few obscure lists in top-flight restaurants. But honestly, looking around the landscape, I see little of it offered anywhere. I see a great opportunity here.

A voyage of discovery can and does happen on different and unexpected shores. This is no joke, but after nearly a week in China (which by the way is fantastic) a few years ago, I was seriously “jonesing” for a nice glass of wine. Near the end of our journey, my wife and I stepped into a (very empty) Italian themed restaurant in Beijing. The wine list, as I recall, had surprising depth, but the prices were a bit steep for an end of the trip meal, so I took a look at the wines by the glass (WBG) menu, and this is where the Santa Maria la Palma caught my eye. I thought to myself, "hmm, I've never heard of it before" but since I love to try to new wines, I thought I might as well give it go. Both my wife and I enjoyed every sip of what turned out to be a fantastic wine.

The Grape: Most folks believe that this grape most likely came over from Spain during the Spanish domination of the island, the Cagnulari is a black grape, producing wines that are inky, toward a deep, nearly opaque purple color. The wines made from this grape typically display an elegant structure, teeth staining color, rough tannins and have an unmistakable aroma, it will remind you of French Mouvedre (an essence of 'brett').

Sight, Aroma, Taste: As I mentioned earlier I selected this wine off the WBG menu, the appearance was deep, staining the side of the glass. In went my fat half-Irish nose, where I found beautiful aromas that were both intense and seductive, notes of licorice, trail dust, wild blackberry, swirling about, really delightful. On the palate, it's a superb combination of baked cherry fruit and blackberry fruits and a slight gamey character making it very distinct. The finish is long and sumptuous, a constant reminder of its depth and grace. I found it to be a fabulous food-pairing partner. By the way, this wine weighed in at a mere 13% ABV, which surprised me, wine this low in ABV with so much flavor and finesse. A wonderful balancing act.

Purchase and Price: I could not find a local state-side importer, distributor or retailer that carried this exact wine, but I did find a place called Kermit Lynch of which many of you're familiar, which has the same grape but from a different producer, selling for $32.

What's the Score:
 Superb, balanced and quite enticing is the first thoughts that came to mind. I gave this wine 90 points on the CCWB hundred point scale. If this wine had more state-side availability, I might have given it a higher score. But I do think it's definitely a wine worth acquiring. If you have never tried a bottle of wine like this, I would recommend that you put this one on your wine shopping list, it's a grape variety to be on the look for, and personally, I would give it a swirl once more if the opportunity presented itself.

I've seen relatively few reviews of this wine anywhere else on the web; so this appears to be the first in-depth review of this wine and region. If you happen to be visiting the area, stop in for a visit, the winery appears to be very welcoming of guests and has fantastic hospitality. The tasting room appears well appointed and has a very modern appeal where I'm sure you'd feel right at home. The wine production facilities are quite immense, on par with many larger wineries here in the US. That's it for now, remember folks life is short, so sip long and prosper cheers!

This post is sponsored by Wine Chateau: 

French wine - When you buy 6 or more bottles use code "corner37"

All original content: Including text and photographs remain the copyright © of the author, (W.R. Eyer) and © Fotogui Photography except where otherwise noted.

Full Disclosure: Reviewed wines are from medias sample provided (not for sale) for the review process.


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