Thursday, February 28, 2008

Sardinia Red: Monica di Sardegna

Today my quest to learn more about Italian wine has brought me to the island of Sardinia. I'm haphazardly skipping around Italy as I find new wines or grapes. I chose Sardinia because I was at Corti Brothers this weekend looking for a local wine when a found a red and white wine from Sardinia.

To learn about Sardinia, I pulled out my favorite reference on Italian wine: Vino Italiano. Sardinia appears to be a scary place to visit because it is so remote from the Italian mainland. It requires an eight hour ferry ride to reach the island and many fugitives and kidnappers take advantage of this isolation. The authors felt the food and wine was worth the trip.

The Monica grape is grown primarily in Sardinia, and more specifically in the southern half of the island around the city of Cagliari. Wines from Monica are supposed to be light wines with the flavor of cherry. The designation Monica di Cagliari means that the wine is 100% Monica and comes from the southern DOC. The designation Monica di Sardegna, however, means that the grapes could come from anywhere on the island and only 85% of the wine needs to be Monica. The remainder can be a blend of Carignano (aka Carignan) and Bovale (a red grape of Spanish origin.)

The Monica I had was a "di Sardegna" using 90% Monica. It wasn't a "light" wine and the presence of the Carignano may be the reason. This grape is high in tannins, acidity and bitterness. Even at less than 10% it brought up the tannins and complexity of the wine. I'll have to try a wine made from 100% Monica to get a comparison. The taste of the wine reminded me of a cross between Merlot and Nero d'Avola, which I recently reviewed. I got a hint of cherry as I drank the wine and the tannin level made it go well with the Tri-tip steak I drank it with.

I think I would enjoy this wine with a spicy spaghetti dish, or anywhere I'd drink a Merlot or Chianti. The wine is different enough to be a nice change of pace. At $13 it's an affordable option too. I'll have to find an unblended example of Monica to get an educated opinion on the Monica grape. I'd also like to taste the wine side-by-side with a Merlot and a Chianti. I recently tried a side-by-side tasting with a wine that reminded me of Syrah. It was cool to be able to contrast the two wines, to help me see why I thought the first wine was like a Syrah and to see how the two differed. Either from an educational stand point or just for drinking enjoyment, I'd like to get another Monica soon. (If anyone has tried both styles, please leave a comment to tell me what you thought of the difference. Thanks! )

Tasting Notes:

2005 Argiolas Perdera Monica de Serdegna (13.5% alcohol)

Color: Dark red

Nose: Cherry

Taste: Cherry with medium tannins

Finish: The tannins lingered slightly with a sour cherry taste, sometimes I got a hint of raisin, but this was very faint.

( Click on the bottle to see the winemakers notes. )

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