Wednesday, June 18, 2008

An Opulent White Wine From Sardinia

I've never had a wine made from Nuragas grapes before, so before I cut the foil on my bottle of 2006 Argiolas S'Elegas Nuragas di Cagliari, I did a little research. ($14.99 in a local market; available from $10-$16 on the east coast, and from $14-$16 on the west coast)

I kept reading about the delicate, acidic, and light wines made with this grape. Imagine my surprise when I opened it up and was bowled over by opulent aromas of honey, peach, mango. This was no lean, seaside white to quaff with linguine alla vongole at a simple trattoria. Instead, it reminded me of an Italian diva at a luxurious resort--it was fleshy, sunny, and just a bit over the top.

Wine has been made on Sardinia from the Nuragas grape for millennia. Because the vines are very productive and grow almost anywhere, the grapes were over-produced and the juice was often thin and devoid of character. This has been changing lately as winemakers on the island have cut back on yields. This may be the result of just such a program, since Antonio Argiolas (the 97-year-old patriarch who started the vineyards back in 1918) was a leading proponent of careful viticultural reform and modernization.

The 2006 Argiolas S'Elegas was opulent and fat with aromas of honey, peach, apricot, and ripe mango. As you sipped it, all you saw was the color orange as you ticked off the ripe peach, apricot, and mango flavors. The wine had a ripe fruit aftertaste, but was a little short in the acidity department. Good QPR, especially for lovers of bigger whites like Semillon, Marsanne, and Viognier.

Because of the wine's lush fruit flavors and low acidity, this wine would be best with something spicy, like shrimp or chicken curry. We had it with shrimp scampi, and the buttery qualities of the dish amplified the fatness of the wine--which was a bit overwhelming to the taste buds.

If you are interested in this Sardinian wine, you may want to read some other bloggers' thoughts on it. Benito's Wine Reviews sampled a 2003 version of the wine this past winter, for example. Have you ever had a wine made from the Nuragas grape? If so, was it rich and lush like this one, or lean and lemony? I'm curious to know if this bottling is characteristic of the grape, or not.


Tyler Balliet said...

I've had some of the other wines by Argiolas and loved them. I'll have to check this one out!

Taster B said...

"Instead, it reminded me of an Italian diva at a luxurious resort--it was fleshy, sunny, and just a bit over the top."

great line :)

Orion Slayer said...

I really enjoy the boldness of a red wine, but the variety you find in whites, especially Itallian whites, keeps drinking wine really interesting. I'll definitely have to try something made from the Nuragas grape.

Remy (The Wine Case) said...

The review is spot on, as far as I'm concerned. I wrote one of the 2005 vintage on my French blog, and my notes say almond, peach, an unctuous, almost buttery feel, with a little bitterness on the finale. Sounds like the same wine, I'd say.

Meanwhile, Jancis Robinson's Oxford Companion to Wine says Nuragus is a “white grape variety grown principally to produce the unremarkable varietal Nuragus di Cagliari on the island of Sardinia”. Well, of course, if you go to the allowed maximum yield of 140 hectoliters per hectare, it ain't going to be very remarkable, now is it?

There are many varietals that have gotten a bad rap over the years, because they were used for high yields and cheap wine. A producer called Pierre Cros, in Languedoc, has a wine called Les Mal-Aimés, made from aramon, carignan, piquepoul noir and alicante, all ill-reputed grapes. Aramon, when it was used to produce over 300 hectoliters per hectare, was as awful as it gets, I'm sure. With 100-year-old vines, at low yields, it's pretty nice. You just have to know how to treat them...

Anonymous said...

I've been a fan of the wines of Sardegna for a long time. Argiolas is among the most modern of producers, which is why this wine was much richer than you expected. Winemaking is undergoing a revolution in the once backward Sardegna and bigger wineries like this are leading the way with modern technology and the best consultants.

Francisco said...

I've had one from another producer while in Italy last summer and it was more on the lean, fresh, floral side. I suspect they may have been after a particular style on this one, though I would still love to try it. Argiolas' wines are some of my favorite non-mainstream values, particularly the Costamolino and Costera.

Domenico said...

I like the Argiolas wines, finding them good value for the quality offered. Costamolino is a summertime favorite with us.

I've been very disappointed as I've sought out Sardinian wines to bring to the US. Even with the interesting local grapes (the reds especially, like Bovale and Monica) the wines themselves are unfocused in their flavor and lack all but a sort of generic rusticity -- in other words, they don't seem very distinctive. For far better flavor and character at roughly the same prices, you're much better heading to Campania, which I feel stongly is Italy's most exciting wine region today.

Dr. Debs said...

I'm just catching up here with the comments--sorry it's taken me so long--and I'm learning a lot about Sardinian wines. Sounds like Argiolas is a name to watch for, and the Costamolino in particular (though I've never seen it out here--maybe I'm not looking carefully enough).

I enjoyed Campania's wines , Domenico, and though I don't know enough about Italian wines to judge I wills say that they seemed a notch above Sardinia's based on the four bottles I've tasted. But I think Sardinia has just as much promise. The question will be how they move in the future. Argiolas seems to be blazing a good trail--let's hope they stick to it.