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Giovanna Chessa, the Queen of Cagnulari

In Usini, in the North West of Sardinia, Chessa wines produces territorial and sincere wines. The best output come out of Vermentino (in this area very different from the rest of the Island) and of Cagnulari, a native vine that is found only in these areas. Giovanna Chessa, the owner of the winery, succeeds in exalting it with elegance and finesse by bottling a unique red as an authentic  witness of this special terroir .

It is late morning when Giovanna welcomes us in her home, in Usini, where on the ground floor (here you would expect a rustic kitchen or car storage) there are barrels, steel tanks and winemaking equipment. Everything is very clean, impeccably organized and with the classic wine scent typical of all the cellars. "This is my kingdom - Giovanna tells us - here I do everything, my cellar is very small." Small, but perfect, cozy, tidy and with just the right equipment for the vinification of four labels, two reds, a white and a sweet dessert wine from moscato grapes. The rest of the work is done in the vineyard.

Shortly after, Giovanna accompanies us to visit the property, among the rows just harvested ... We stroll through sweet hills, between vineyards with different exhibitions, planted on very poor grounds, ideal for vine cultivation. The microclimate is unique, the wind always caresses the plants, guarantees healthiness and a perfect ripening of the grapes. The soil does the rest. In addition, the sea is not far away and the brackish breezes, especially when the Mistral blows, intensely affect the bunches and, consequently, the wines produced.

After our return to the cellar, the tasting begins under the best auspices. The Vermentino di Sardegna Mattariga is tasty, has a character, doesn’t surrender to sweetness and tropical aromas, but rather offers iodized and helichrysum notes. Then there is the Cagnulari, a grape that is certainly difficult to grow in some ways. Nevertheless, after many harvests, Giovanna seems to have found the right recipe, especially in terms of the perfect harvest timing. This is a Cagnulari with a clear Mediterranean soul, but his strength shows more on the aromatic complexity side rather than on the body and structure. Its aroma is cherries and wild strawberries and its flavor makes the sip juicy and rhythmic. Here it comes the moment of the Lugherra, the other red, originated from a combination of Cagnulari and other Sardinian traditional grapes.

Here you can feel more structure, the fruity part brings out the ripe black fruits. Even on the palate the body is stronger: softness envelops the palate and the finish is creamy and dense. We conclude our tasting with Kentales, Moscato Passito of Sardinia. It is a sweet wine that smells of Sardinia, of its sun, of ripe yellow fruits, summer dried bushes. In the mouth it is sweet and sumptuous, never cloying and with a sapid final flavor. Even the latter, a true example of what a great wine territory can give. Especially with an interpreter like Giovanna Chessa.

Giuseppe Carrus's picture
Giuseppe Carrus

Sommelier and journalist
Born in Sardinia, Giuseppe is a sommelier and food&wine writer who travels Italy and the world to discover wines, cellars and territories.
For many years part of the editorial board at Gambero Rosso, he is currently the deputy editor of the Gambero Rosso Vini d'Italia guide. He holds several collaborations, both in specialized magazines and schools, where he teaches techniques and methods for wine and food tasting.
With his wife Alessandra, he’s the owner of Cagliari based CUCINA.eat, a concept restaurant, shop and wine bar.

Antonella Corda. The future that starts from far, but has just begun.

From mother to vineyard, the pay-off states. Beautiful, simple, effective. We don't like it though to call it a slogan, recalling something that has more marketing and communication aspects. From mother to vineyard is the perfect synthesis of Antonella Corda’s story, a young producer from Serdiana, Sardegna (Italy). A story that has just begun, but with ancient roots. Antonella's mother always has had vines, thanks to his father, a great agricultural entrepreneur, who, more than eighty years ago, created a wine project that has brought prestige to the economy of an entire territory. Work in the vineyards and the production of quality grapes to make excellent wines has always been a family affair. But it is with Antonella that something has changed. She turned those grapes into bottles, great bottles. Label them with her name, put a cork, and send them everywhere in the world, as ambassadors of the Serdiana terroir, something in which Antonella believes very much. This is how in 2016, the first official harvest, three wines come onto the market: Vermentino di Sardegna, Cannonau di Sardegna and Nuragus di Cagliari. Finesse, elegance, great drinkability are the must have characteristics of a wine and everything concurs to enhance the vines, the climate and the soil. It can be easy to make a good wine these times, it is much more difficult to do it with certain peculiarities. Antonella has succeeded, since first harvest. She relied on a high level technical staff, worked hard and, with the help of a lucky vintage, put three star players on the market. So much that the Cannonau di Sardegna 2016 immediately conquers Vini d’Italia’s Gambero Rosso wine tasters that awarded it with Tre Bicchieri, the maximum score of the Guide. But that is not all. This wine and the whole range of refences lead Antonella Corda winery to be awarded as the Emerging Winery of the Year, one of the 11 Special Awards assigned by the Guide each year. Gratification is so great, Antonella's emotion goes beyond any limit. And this is only the beginning ... What is the great value of Antonella Corda wines since the first vintages? They have ancient roots but are at the same time absolutely contemporary wines. The Vermentino is fresh, saline, of good aromaticity as the vine has to be, but tasty and never tiring drink. The Nuragus is thin, deep, slender, very elegant. Lastly, the Cannonau represents a template. A model for which, perhaps in spite of the name, the grape manages to give grace, drinkability and elegance. A certain Mediterranean character, but never heavy, alcoholic or difficult to drink. Actually, juicy and tasty, fresh and with aromas of rose and small berries. How the Cannonau should be. Thus it talks about grapes, about the territory that gives it life and the hand of the man who completes the work. Brava Antonella, go on like this!

We recently tasted three different Mandrolisai that really surprised us. Here are our tasting notes.Recently we tasted again the three wines, in the different vintages produced so far, plus one great novelty. Here are our tasting notes on the most convincing bottles ...

- Cannonau di Sardegna 2016
Wonderful. Three years later, the wine still reveals signs of absolute youth, with a nose that offers perfumes of currant, wild strawberry and rose. Mouth of great freshness, savory, crunchy in the drink, deep and with a very clean finish.

- Cannonau di Sardegna 2017
A warmer vintage than the previous one that offers aromas of plum and blackberry, spices and a touch of tobacco. The mouth is wrapping, it is warm, but never heavy, there is a hint of tannins due to the youth of the wine. Already pleasant, it will be interesting to try it again in a while.

- Nuragus di Cagliari 2016
Who said that Nuragus does not age? Skeptics do try this wine. Scents of white fruit and signs of noble resins anticipate a thin and deep mouth, with well-integrated acidity and a saline finish.

- Nuragus di Cagliari 2018
Still a child, but it seems to follow the 2016 vintage. The vintage was not particularly fortunate especially for produced grapes’ quantity, but those brought to the cellar by Antonella seem to be of the highest standard. White flowers, touch of anise and a crystal clean mouth.

- Vermentino di Sardegna 2017
Tertiary aromas began to appear for the wine obtained solely from Vermentino grapes, an aromatic variety that gives hints of yellow fruit, wild flowers and sweet spices. The mouth is warm, but with a beautiful acid touch that brightens the drink.

- Ziru – IGT Isola dei Nuraghi 2017
The novelty at Antonella Corda winery is given by a white wine made from vermentino grapes aged in amphorae. The maceration on the skins characterizes the wine that immediately amazes for its aromas and complexity. Yellow flowers, a touch of dry leaves, zest of candied lemon and beeswax are just few of the hints to the nose. The mouth is sapid, smooth, slightly tannic but never bitter, long, deep, tasty and shockingly easy to drink. Sincere congratulations!

Giuseppe Carrus's picture
Giuseppe Carrus

Sommelier and journalist
Born in Sardinia, Giuseppe is a sommelier and food&wine writer who travels Italy and the world to discover wines, cellars and territories.
For many years part of the editorial board at Gambero Rosso, he is currently the deputy editor of the Gambero Rosso Vini d'Italia guide. He holds several collaborations, both in specialized magazines and schools, where he teaches techniques and methods for wine and food tasting.
With his wife Alessandra, he’s the owner of Cagliari based CUCINA.eat, a concept restaurant, shop and wine bar.

Mandrolisai, essence of a terroir.

If we trace two diagonals from north to south of Sardinia, they cross exactly in the subregion of Mandrolisai. A beautiful hilly and mountainous area, where the Mediterranean vegetation alternates with the forest and the rocky walls of granite stones. Walking along the roads that go from Atzara to Meana, from Sorgono to Ortueri (the four main towns of the area) you can see the vineyards strictly enclosed by dry stone walls. Small saplings (a system of vine breeding that has always been widespread in Sardinia), with large and sturdy trunks, at a safe distance between them. Very old plants, some centenarians, naturally not very generous in producing a good quantity of bunches, but ideal to offer a very high quality of grapes that will become must and then wine. There are three vines, Cannonau, Bovale and Monica. These are the varieties we find in the vineyards (here the winemakers have been designing the vineyard plant for a long time so that there is the right proportion between the vines) and that we find in the wine. Yes, because Mandrolisai is the name of the wine, as well as the name of the place. A wine composed exactly from the same grapes, very often used in the same percentages depending on the chosen vineyard. The cannonau gives softness and enveloping, the bovale adds tannic perception and spicy aromas, the monica complete with a touch of freshness and flavor. A perfect harmony between the grapes that summarizes the harmony we find if we look at the vines. The territory in the bottle certainly does not lack and is accentuated by the altitudes of the rows, above 600 meters, perceptible through the wines with fresh acidity, ideal for balancing the body and structure of the great Mediterranean wines of Southern Italy. That's why we are not afraid to define the wines of the Mandrolisai great wines of terroir (despite the term is, alas, very abused): here you don’t need to mention the grapes, here you don’t need to talk about technique in the cellar , here there is no need to use adjectives very fashionable in recent years to understand the craftsman value of the productions. It will simply be enough to talk about Mandrolisai. And as the great wine names are known all over the world for the name of the area, here too - if everyone believes - just ask the Mandrolisai and from Tokyo to San Francisco we will be given the same glass of wine. A glass that speaks of a place, its culture, its traditions, the people who live there.

We recently tasted three different Mandrolisai that really surprised us. Here are our tasting notes.

- Mandrolisai Sup. Kent'Annos Gold '13 - Winery of the Mandrolisai
It is the flagship wine of the cooperative winery that brings together dozens of members who work exclusively in the Mandrolisai vineyards. Kent'Annos Gold smells of cherry in spirit and plum, undergrowth and resin. The mouth is enveloping and soft, the taste is creamy and of excellent profundity. Ideal with aged cheeses and stewed red meats.

- Mandrolisai Pareda '15 - Meana Terre del Mandrolisai
Small private cellar owned by three members. Old vineyards and a craftsman making in the cellar lead to Pareda, a classic in its type. The aromas of currants and spices anticipate a smooth mouth, very savory, crossed by a balsamic freshness that is able to balance well the body of the wine. To combine with young pecorino and white meats.

- Mandrolisai Azzara '16 - Fradiles
Paolo Savoldo is a good winemaker and interprets the territory of Mandrolisai to perfection. The Azzara '16 is the youngest wine in the range, vinified only with the use of steel to make appreciate all the characteristics related to the three varieties that make up the blend. Small red fruits, a floral touch, a dynamic and flowing mouth for a fantastic drink. Perfect with beef tartare.

Giuseppe Carrus's picture
Giuseppe Carrus

Sommelier and journalist
Born in Sardinia, Giuseppe is a sommelier and food&wine writer who travels Italy and the world to discover wines, cellars and territories.
For many years part of the editorial board at Gambero Rosso, he is currently the deputy editor of the Gambero Rosso Vini d'Italia guide. He holds several collaborations, both in specialized magazines and schools, where he teaches techniques and methods for wine and food tasting.
With his wife Alessandra, he’s the owner of Cagliari based CUCINA.eat, a concept restaurant, shop and wine bar.

Wine and ingredients arrived directly from Sardinia!

Wine and ingredients arrived directly from Sardinia!

Do you know Sardinia, the Italian island in the Mediterranean sea? Only one hour by plane from Rome. It is an island mainly known as a luxury celebrity spot.

One day, a large parcel was sent by DHL from Sardinia. The sender is Marta Sanna, the representative of Sardinia food trading company "Sardegna Mia". A half year ago, I met her at a food event and when I asked questions about Sardinia, she replied "I would like you introduce Sardinian food and wine to the Japanese people by Media Rocket". Sardinia is somehow different from mainland Italy, has its unique history and culture, the wine is delicious and it is also a treasure source of new food products. And my answer was "OK, of course!" And the parcel was sent. When I open it ...

Wow! Amazing! Lots of things… Seven bottles of red and white wines, reinforced wines, spirits and liqueurs, several short pastas, something like dried rice cracker, cheeses, extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, several honey varieties, fragrance salt set, some vegetable spreads... First of all, I am overwhelmed by the variety of products, it is really impressive. However. Wine and cheese is easy, I know how to eat them, but what about things I’ve never seen before? "how do you eat these?" Two weeks after that, Marta arrived again in Tokyo and organized a Sardinian Food and Wine tasting party. We decided to participate to understand first of all "how to eat" these unknown ingredients!

First of all I'm impressed with the fact that this food is "ready to eat" , you just don’t need to cook it! On November 6th, we went to the Italian Restaurant "Teatro Acca", just close Kotokuji Temple. They opened only one year ago, but, as confirmed by the owner Hara Fumihito, a reputable skillful chef, they already have a lot of fans. Today the reataurant is croweded with a mix of regular customers, food industry and media guests.

This time Marta came to Japan with her friend Giuseppe Carrus, co-editor at Gambero Rosso wine Guide.

So, I asked Marta to explain how to eat that Sardinian food. There are two types of dry bread that can be considered "something like rice cracker". One is thick "Biscottadu" and the most traditional is the thin one, called "Carasau” The bread is very convenient to be stocked, with its 12 months long preservation.

Then I tried what seemed the most popular food at the Party: a vegetable dip in a glass jar. It is a paste of vegetables finished in a creamy form with salt and extra virgin olive oil, in two versions, wild asparagus and artichokes. This is very delicious just spred it in a piece of dry bread and eaten!

We don’t usually see much vegetable dipping in Japan, but this can be used not only as a dip but also as pasta sauce and dressing. Since it’s very easy to stock, if you have the dry bread + vegetable dip at home, it will be a perfect appetizer, useful as well when you cannot go shopping or do not have time to cook.

And cheese!

In Sardinia cheese from sheep, cows and goats milk is widely produced. We tried this time 3 different pecorino (sheep milk cheese). My favorite one is "Zinnibiri". Soft type and slightly sweet. It is a Pecorino with holes and I never tried it before.

Balsamic on cheese is GOOD!

I understand olive oil, but I do not know well how to use balsamic.

So, when asking Marta, "How do you use balsamic?" she recommended to try with cheese. As soon as I tried it, it was delicious! This balsamic is rich in fruit flavor. Since cheese + honey compatibility is pretty known, I tried all kinds of honey we had. What I found unusual was “Corbezzolo bitter honey". And the paste of honey and hazelnut was also so natural, a taste that could hardly be found in Japan.

Karasumi from Sardinia and autumn fruits in Japan!

Common points between Sardinia and Japan is the habit to eat bottarga (mullet eggs). Chef Hara-san prepared a plate that combined "kaki" and "figs" with Sardinia's bottarga. Bottarga, with its strong salty taste is also perfect paired with mineral Sardinian white wine.

Crunchy bread, dip, cheese, honey, extra virgin olive oil, balsamico, scented salt, bottarga. I am amazed that we can have all these kind of snack and aperitivo just combining wine and various types of dried food that can also be preserved and stocked for long time It is interesting because it is easy to prepare and you can enjoy also on your own Such culture of “aperitivo snack” it’s not common in Japan, but I think it is not only good but also very convenient and creative. I really want to import this culture in Japan. And I hope it will be easy to buy these superior ingredients handled by Sardinia Mia in Japan.

 

Hitomi Kumasaka's picture
Hitomi Kumasaka

Writer, Editor
Born in Fukushima, Hitomi is an expert on social network services, entrepreneur and writer. Author of numerous books on social media, best sellers in Japan, she is also an international blogger and speaker. Her strong interest in food and wine led her to found in 2017 Media Rocket, an online magazine and blog about wine and food in the world. She is currently deepening her studies on wine through participation in the WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) program.