Tonight, (May 4th) I am sitting happy and high on Trentino wines after having attended a vertical wine tasting of Vino Santo in a winery close to Trento. More about that further on…
Anyway, in a beautiful agriturismo tucked into the Trentino mountain landscape I am now focusing on finishing my article about the Vermentino produced by Antonella Corda winery in Sardegna. I met Antonella at Vinitaly this year and had the opportunity to sit down and interview her about her artisanal winemaking just north of Cagliari.
Antonella is a very nice person that makes you feel relaxed while she is talking passionately about her vineyards and her winemaking in Sardegna. I asked her if I could do a short video with her which made her slightly nervous, but she said yes after all and did brilliantly. I wanted to show you all how she is passionate about her land and the surrounding territory.
In this article, I will thus try and transmit her story and what I learned from her during our hour-long chat at Vinitaly.
May with #ItalianFWT
The theme this month, May 2018, will be Benvenuto Vermentino in the Italian Food, Wine, and Travel (#ItalianFWT) group. When I checked out the theme for this month and saw it was about the Vermentino, I just knew I wanted to write about the Vermentino produced by Antonella Corda. I was lucky to get to taste all her wines at Vinitaly.
On Saturday, May 5, you can join us on Twitter at 11amEDT / 17.00 CEST to learn more about food, wine, and travel in relation to the Vermentino. Just type in the hashtag #ItalianFWT in the search field and click Enter, thereafter, you click Latest which will show you all the live tweets.
Vermentino and its expression in Sardegna
Vermentino is a grape variety that is cultivated in various Italian regions such as Toscana and Liguria but in this article, I will focus on the Vermentino in Sardegna. It is a grape variety that has been considered to be of Spanish origin, however, today research has shown that this might not be the case.
In short, some claim it is a grape variety native to Italy that was then brought to Spain while others say it has its origin in Spain and was brought via France to Italy. Furthermore, it is stressed that Vermentino is the parent of the grapes Pigato in Liguria and Favorita in Piemonte.
What is rather clear is that it is a grape that produces lovely and structured wines. When it comes to soil, the Vermentino grows best in rough and less fertile soils. It is resistant to dry climates and to the winds blowing in from the sea. It is a grape that is not afraid to suffer to thrive and produce structured and elegant wines in Sardegna.
In this context, considering that the winery of Antonella Corda is located in Serdiana just a bit north of Cagliari we are in the Vermentino di Sardegna DOC area. In fact, the DOC denomination includes the areas of Cagliari, Oristano, Sassari, Nuoro, Medio Campidano, Ogliastra, Olbia-Tempio, and Carbonia-Iglesias. The Vermentino di Gallura DOCG area, on the other hand, covers the provinces of Sassari, Nuoro, and Olbia-Tempio.
What characterizes the Vermentino in Sardegna, then? Well, generally it is thought to be a structured and mineral wine with notes of citrus fruits and the, so called, macchia Mediterranea (i.e. the typical Mediterranean scrub vegetation). The alcohol level is also higher than in other regions where the Vermentino is produced.
A Female Winemaker Passionate About Her Home Region
Who is then Antonella Corda?
Already as a little girl, she took an interest in the family winery business. Indeed, she comes from a family that has been vine growers and winemakers since five generations back. Thus, it can be said that she has viticulture in her blood and as a natural step she started out by studying agricultural science at the University of Sassari. After her degree, she continued to do a Master in viticultural management at the Edward Munch Foundation in Alto-Adige.
In 2009, when done with the studies, she decided to return to Sardegna and take over the land that belonged to her mother’s side of the family. She created a new winery and started to both replant new vineyards and recover and replant older vines in the 40-year-old vineyards. Today, she has a total of 15 ha of Nuragus, Vermentino, and Cannonau vineyards.
Antonella believes in valorizing the local territory and its traditions while at the same time favoring innovation. Her winery is in conversion to become organic since 1,5 years and already since before that they stopped using any chemical fertilizers or products. She believes in sustainability and in respecting natural characteristics of the local territory.
In fact, they are doing green manure where they for example plant field beans in the vine rows that is then plowed down to give nitrogen and nourishment to the soil. They are also working on using sustainable irrigation techniques and renewable energy. They are not biodynamic as she told me that she is still looking further into it and how she can take out and adapt parts of it that scientifically make sense.
Returning to the grapes, she is focusing on the native grape varieties that are so typical of her area. Not only Vermentino and Cannonau but also Nuragus which is a grape that used to be known more for its quantity rather than quality. It can be compared to the Pagadebit in Romagna, in the sense that it was seen among the farmers as a grape that secured their income year by year.
Antonella is showing that Nuragus can give wines of complexity and structure if cultivated and vinified with the attention it deserves.
Returning to the Vermentino, it is a grape that adapts well to the local terroir around Cagliari. The soil here is very calcareous and the layers beneath are of sandstone. She told me that the soil reaches very deep so they discover new facets of the soil all the time. It gives a structured and complex wine rich in perfumes.
Vermentino di Sardegna di Antonella Corda
While chatting, we were, of course, also tasting Antonella’s wines and letting them open up and sink in slowly. The Vermentino I tasted was a very recently bottled 2017. As we know 2017 was a very warm year, that turned out to be quite difficult for many in the end. The quantity was reduced by up to 30-40% depending on the area in Italy, while the quality is believed to be very good.
Antonella, in fact, told me that they in Sardegna had 40 degrees already in May and June which lead to an early harvest in August. They based the harvest time not only on the sugar and acidity levels but also on the taste of the grapes. The alcohol by volume is higher also this year being around 14 percent. Another important thing is that they did a shorter maceration on the skins, not more than a couple of hours, due to the warm year.
The 2017, I found to be a quite fresh and mineral Vermentino with intense both floral and fruity notes, such as citrus fruits, orange blossom, sage, etc. The herby undertone of the Mediterranean typical scrub vegetation is very strong. It is a structured and elegant wine where you feel the influence of the sea as well as the local terroir.
A Vermentino that transmits the local terroir
To recap the article a bit, I wanted to write about Antonella Corda in this context of the #italianfwt to show a producer going back a bit to her roots and traditions but still favoring innovation. The focus on indigenous grapes and local terroir and traditions are strong for the moment and it is often combined with the use of innovative techniques.
Antonella Corda is producing wines that are native to her territory and she is very much into an approach that works towards sustainability. To valorize the local territory and its resources are becoming more and more of the essence today. Her wines, in this context the Vermentino, are, according to me, a very good expression of how tradition and modernity can work together for the future.
See what our Italian Food Wine & Travel Enthusiasts have to offer about Vermentino:
Gwen from Wine Predator is sharing “You Need To Know Vermentino: Paired with Carbonara #ItalianFWT”
Lauren from The Swirling Dervish is writing “Vegetarian Plates and Pigato from A.A. Durin: Perfect for Your Summer Table”
Jill from L’Occasion is adding “Vermentino from Maremma, Land of The Butteri Tuscan Cowboys”
Jane from Always Ravenous is penning “Which Vermentino to Pair With Shrimp & Fresh Herb Pilaf?”
Katarina from Grapevine Adventures is dishing on “Vermentino by Antonella Corda – An expression of Sardinia Terroir”
Nicole Ruiz Hudson from Sommstable is bringing “Piero Mancini Vermentino and Salmon Two Ways”
Camilla Mann from Culinary Adventures with Cam is posting “From Sardegna to the Land Down Under: Vermentino + Pizza alle Vongole”
and here at Avvinare, I’m all about “Vermentino in its Varied Styles from Liguria to Sardegna.”