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cannonau di sardegna

Friends, Romangia, countrymen

Dettori 2006 Romangia Rosso Badde Nigolosu (Sardinia) – 100% cannonau (grenache). Subtle, seeming to rise from its lotus position with a slow unfolding of limbs. The subtlety never really goes away, though, and those expecting a more standard Sardinian cannonau – that is, one with a big and fruity palate impact – might be disappointed. Well, their loss. This requires attention to its graceful swirls of dusty berry and rich, semi-volcanic earth. The finish is so quiet that the inattentive will consider it to have departed long before it actually does. Not as showily brilliant as the white, this has more peaceful charms, and they’re more than OK. (11/10)

Mosca on the Hudson

Sella & Mosca 2005 Cannonau di Sardegna (Sardinia) – A normally-reliable crowd-pleaser, here tasted from two bottles and found wanting from each. The strawberry bubblegum with a little more grate to it is present, as expected, but it cannot escape the two-ton lead weight pressing down on it. It’s not that the wine is overly heavy, it’s that it’s squashed. If both bottles are corked, it’s imperceptible and they’re identically-infected, which seems low-probability. Maybe a bad batch, or damaged, or just not very good. (2/10)

Mosca on the Hudson

Sella & Mosca 1999 Cannonau di Sardegna “Riserva” (Sardinia) – Over the last nine years, this has turned from grenache to aged cabernet franc. How’d that happen? Razor-edged fruit, sharp and porcupine-y, bristles with narrow-gauge redness around a gravelly core. It’s interesting, but I think the wine’s more appealing in its fresh and fruity youth. (12/08)

Sella & Mosca 2004 Cannonau di Sardegna “Riserva” (Sardinia) – Strawberry, sun, and bubblegum…though the latter is a very minor component in comparison to the other two. It seems somewhat insulting to call any wine gluggable, but this one definitely is. One of the most reliably appealing quasi-mass market labels out there. (12/08)


[label]Sella & Mosca 2004 Cannonau di Sardegna “Riserva” (Sardinia) – Fruity, fresh, and fun. Strawberry bubblegum with a gravel foundation and fine balance. This is an extremely reliable wine, though I suppose it sacrifices some uniqueness for that reliability. (2/08)

Costera someone else for a change

[bottle]Argiolas 2006 Isola dei Nuraghi “Costera” (Sardinia) – Quite tannic, perhaps overstructured. Dark, dark licorice notes rest atop a thick stew of fire-roasted black cherry and coffee. This is grenache? The finish is more telling, with the lighter fruit and expected bubblegum notes in evidence, but this is a very broody wine. (2/08)

Another word for a truck

[bottle]Argiolas 2006 Isola dei Nuraghi “Serra Lori” (Sardinia) – Vivid strawberry with a rocky edge. Less fun than many rosés, but not exactly serious either; call it pleasantly battleworn. (2/08)

Tàmara paste

Cantina del Vermentino 2004 Cannonau di Sardegna “Tàmara” (Sardinia) – Chewy, juicy, and wet. Slightly hollow, however, and roughens up on the finish. There’s lots of polish, but I’m not sure what’s being polished. (2/07)

Shot from a cannonau

[bottle]Sella & Mosca 2004 Cannonau di Sardegna “Riserva” (Sardinia) – Showing the beginning stages of a faint browning in both color and taste, but still a fun stew of sun-dried fruit, perhaps a bit of tomato skin, and a gravelly texture. One of my favorite red wines for things that usually go better with white. (2/08)

TN: Sella few

Sella & Mosca 2003 Cannonau di Sardegna “Riserva” (Sardinia) – Bright, soda-splash red fruit with stripes of light coconut toast and a friendly, obvious appeal. Surprisingly light for an ’03, and while it’s somewhat commercial and simplistic, it can’t really be criticized for its inherent qualities. (4/07)

TN: Sardinia & the bottom

[Kuentz-Bas]Kuentz-Bas 2004 Alsace (Alsace) – Spice and pear skin, with a slightly disjointed mix of thick, molten-mineral texture and crisp, watery thinness. Not as good as a previous bottle. (8/06)

This underperformance vs. a previous note could be due to bottle variation (which, truth be told, is usually cork variation), but it’s more likely to be due to food variation. The previous bottle was paired with uniform, compatible food, while this one was opened as an apéritif and then forced to accommodate some unusual and variable foods. Remember that every tasting note is a snapshot of a time, place and environment, not an objective and immutable measure of quality. Alcohol: 12.5%. Closure: cork. Importer: Lynch. Web:

JP Brun “Terres Dorées” 2004 Beaujolais Blanc (Beaujolais) – Chardonnay in deep, rich tones, full of earth and brooding twilight duskiness. Balanced and very, very enticing. (8/06)

There’s so much indifferent chardonnay in the Mâcon (another appellation that chardonnay grown in Beaujolais is entitled to, and the one it usually adopts) that it’s almost remarkable what’s achieved here. Careful vineyard work is the principal reason. Alcohol: 12%. Closure: extruded synthetic. Importer: Louis/Dressner/LDM.

[Cluver]Cluver 2005 Gewurztraminer (Elgin) – Some of the right varietal notes – peach, rose petal, some vague nods in the direction of spice – but half the orchestra’s missing, as this is thin and watery, with masking sugar and a completely void finish. (8/06)

Perhaps it’s gewurztraminer’s occasionally scary alcohol levels that wreak fear among winemakers, but the grape is one that requires a certain measure of courage. The wild, musky, powerful aromatics that are its signature must be given time to develop, and that requires hang time. And when the grape does not reach these benchmark characteristics, the temptation to mask faults with residual sugar must, at least in part, be resisted. Sweet bad wine is not inherently better than the dry version, no matter how much counter-evidence of popularity the U.S. beverage industry presents to the contrary. Alcohol: 12.5%. Closure: screwcap. Importer: Vinnovative. Web:

[Tablas Creek]Tablas Creek 2002 “Côtes de Tablas” Blanc (Paso Robles) – Grapes grown in the desert, with beautiful mixed nut oils, dry (and dried) stone fruit and an evocative brick-red desert palette of spices. Beautifully long and balanced. Delicious wine. (8/06)

36% Viognier, 30% marsanne, 26% grenache blanc, 8% roussanne. I’m not often one who is impressed by tales of long post-opening maintenance (e.g. “this bottle was even better four days later,”) because oxidation is not the same as aging, and it says nothing about the wine other than how resistant to oxidation it is. However, for those who find comfort in such assessments, this was just as good two days later, recorked and unrefrigerated. Alcohol: 14.2%. Closure: cork. Web:

Margan 2006 Shiraz Rosé “Saignée” (Hunter Valley) – Watermelon Jolly Ranchers. Sticky, synthetic and absolutely vile. (8/06)

“Saignée” means that the vats were “bled”…juice from red grapes was removed from its skins, leaving it not with the deep red it will acquire from long soaking with the pigmented skins, but rather with (in this case; grapes and wines differ) a lurid pink. Alcohol: 14%. Closure: screwcap. Importer: Southern Starz. Web:

[Sella & Mosca]Sella & Mosca 2002 Cannonau di Sardegna Riserva (Sardinia) – Pure island fun, showing walnuts, roasted pecans, bright strawberry bubblegum fruit (though not in a candied way), judicious oak spice, and a nice, crisp acidity supporting everything. (8/06)

This is grenache, showing a lot of the grape’s varietal characteristics (strawberry bubblegum), with some interesting Sardinian elements (the particular balance of the wine) and a little modernistic winemaking (oak, which is rarely my favorite companion to grenache, but which seems to do well here). Alcohol: 13.5%. Closure: cork. Importer: Palm Bay. Web:

[Cabasse]Domaine de Cabasse 1998 Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages Séguret “Cuvée Garnacho” (Rhône) – Not quite dead, but knocking on the door. That was a very fast decline for this wine, and I wonder if there might not have been some sort of cork failure. In any case, this is all tannin and oxidized fruit on the nose. It’s heavy and still thick, and the palate has some slightly more pleasant grenache characteristics, but overall there’s just no pleasure here. (8/06)

Most (though not all) Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages wines are grenache-dominated blends, but occasionally wineries do all-grenache blends, and label them so. It would be logical to assume that the “Cuvée Garnacho” (a local dialect word for the grape) is one such wine, but it’s not; it’s simply a differentiator between this wine and the less traditional grenache/syrah blend from the same appellation, “Casa Bassa.” Alcohol: 13.5%. Closure: cork. Importer: World Shippers. Web: