One of Italy's best Cabernet Sauvignons is produced in Alghero. Here's which one

Jun 19 2024, 13:49
In Sardinia, small denominations are increasingly gaining prominence, expressing diverse territorial identities. One of these is the Alghero DOC, with highly interesting red and white wines

When we analyze the Sardinian wine world, we notice that two grape varieties dominate all others: Cannonau and Vermentino. These two varieties often fall under a large regional DOC (Cannonau di Sardegna and Vermentino di Sardegna), although recently, especially for the island’s typical red grape, efforts are being made to define "subzones" to express the various territorial identities. Alongside these macro-denominations, other areas are gaining prominence: one of these is Alghero, which has been protected by a DOC since 1995.

Alghero: the territory

The Alghero DOC currently covers over 1340 hectares of vineyards. These are found in the municipalities of Alghero, Olmedo, Ossi, Tissi, Usini, Uri, Ittiri, and partly in the municipality of Sassari. Located in the northwestern part of the island, in an area called Nurra Algherese, the terrain is predominantly flat, occasionally interrupted by gentle hills, especially in the eastern part. Despite the small size of the denomination, it features quite diverse characteristics, even in terms of soils: the vineyards are planted on various types of terrain (limestone, sandstone, volcanic rocks). Additionally, the sea plays a significant role in defining the climate of the area: even the most inland vineyards enjoy year-round sea breezes, which contribute to the health of the vineyards.

The Marchese di Villamarina Cabernet Sauvignon and other Alghero DOC wines

The area is small, but the range of grape varieties available to producers is quite broad. The Alghero DOC includes some native grapes—the most important currently being Torbato and Cagnulari—as well as several international varieties. Among these, Cabernet Sauvignon stands out, particularly with the Marchese di Villamarina by Sella e Mosca, which has brought the area to the forefront of the fine wine scene. This red wine has been, and continues to be, a significant part of Italian wine history.

We also want to highlight the aforementioned Cagnulari and Torbato. The former shares some characteristics with Bovale, another native grape: some scholars believe it originated in Spain and migrated to Sardinia around the 17th century during the Aragonese rule. Others think it was introduced from France in the 19th century. Its cultivation is almost exclusively limited to the province of Sassari.

As for Torbato, this grape is also primarily grown around Alghero and seems to have Spanish origins (historically known as Vitis Iberica, Catalan grape, or Turbat). However, genetic studies place it within the Malvasia family: it was also found in southern France centuries ago, known as Malvoisie de Roussillon.

The best Alghero DOC wines

To understand the vinification results of these still little-known native varieties, Torbato and Cagnulari, here is a list of the best labels from the Alghero DOC that received Tre Bicchieri and Due Bicchieri in the 2024 Gambero Rosso Vini d’Italia guide.

The Marchese di Villamarina 2019 remains at the top, earning Tre Bicchieri. An international grape variety (100% Cabernet Sauvignon) but with highly territorial aromas and flavors, starting with a dense nose of myrtle and eucalyptus and an iodine-rich, enveloping palate. Also excellent is Mustazzo, a Cannonau that is part of the renowned Antonio Marras line. In this case, the grapes come from Barbagia and Ogliastra (the most suitable areas for the variety), and the quality is evident. The Torbato Cuvée 161 is a delicious and characterful white.

A historic winery, recently acquired by the Moretti family (also producers in Franciacorta and Tuscany), boasts over a century of history. The vast estate has vineyards surrounding the winery, covering 540 hectares of both white and red varieties. Among the reds, the flagship grape is Cabernet Sauvignon, which produces the historic aging red, Marchese di Villamarina. For whites, Torbato, a native Alghero grape, is the crown jewel, used to produce distinctive sparkling wines. However, the classic Vermentino and Cannonau are also present.

Gabriele Palmas boasts a range of highly valuable wines. Here, we focus on the Alghero Cabernet Riserva '17, a dense, creamy, and very complex wine on the nose, with fruity tones prevailing over vegetal and resinous sensations.

The Cagnulari Graffiante '21 by Rigàtteri is dense and spicy. Completing the winery's range, which is based on native varieties and generally high quality, are the Vermentino di Sardegna Yios 2022, fresh, savoury, and almondy, and the Cannonau di Sardegna Rosato 2022.

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