Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Sella & Mosca: Simply Sardinia

In my wine journeys I have the opportunity to experience fabulous wines and attend events where I get to taste these wines and meet the winemakers. One such occasion was when I was introduced to Sella & Mosca, the largest winery on the island of Sardinia. Sardinia lies south of France near the island of Corsica and off the west coast of Italy. Sella & Mosca lies on the NW corner of the island, just inland from the historic port of Alghero, which was designated a DOC in 1995.

Sardinia has a 6,000-year winemaking history. Sella & Mosca is the largest winery on the island (550 hectares planted) and almost the oldest. Fun fact: it is the second largest contiguous vineyard in Italy! They use all organic cultivation and participate in other sustainable activities. The vineyards have been planted with alternating rows of oleanders, palms, maritime pines, eucalyptus and other Mediterranean plants. The winery also maintains a 12-acre nature preserve dedicated to Mediterranean vegetation and local wildlife.

Tourism is the main industry on the island with 1.4 million tourists visiting year-round. In the summer, the population of the island doubles. The island provides lots of sun and wind and desirable soils for grapes including: iron-rich limestone, clay and sandy soils. All their wines are made from estate-grown grapes and they grow both native varieties (Vermentino, Torbato, and Cannonau) as well as some international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc.

Of note about Sardinia is its designation as a “Blue Zone”. Blue Zones are regions of the world where Dan Buettner claims people live much longer than average. Other blue zones in the world include Okinawa, Japan and Costa Rica. Sardinia is said to be on this list partially because Cannonau has one of the highest concentration of resveratrol as any other grape variety. 

Founded over a century ago in 1899, Sella & Mosca was started by two Piemontese businessmen: Erminio Sella and Edgardo Mosca, who were two very important figures during the Risorgimento. Had to look this one up! According to Wikipedia: the Italian unification, also known as the Risorgimento, was the political and social movement that consolidated different states of the Italian peninsula into the single state of the Kingdom of Italy in the 19th century.

Today, the head winemaker is Giovanni Pinna who lead us through a tasting of their wines.  A native of Sardinia, Giovanni has devoted his entire career to studying, working and teaching others about the island’s unique viticultural landscape. He joined Sella & Mosca in 2000 and is now chief winemaker over their annual production of 7.6 million bottles!

Most notable about Sella & Mosca is their dedication to the Torbato grape, their flagship variety. Torbato was brought to the island during the Spanish rule. Even though a variety called Turbat is found in Spain today, Sella & Mosca is the only producer in the world to vinify it as a 100% varietal wine. Today they produce four types of Torbato: Torbato D.O.C. Alghero, Terre Bianche D.O.C. Alghero, Terre Bianche Cuvée 161 D.O.C. Alghero, and Torbato Spumante Brut. Giovanni uses no oak in their white wines, as he wants you to experience the grape, not the wood.

Sella & Mosca wines are readily available in Los Angeles at the Wine House, K&L Wines, and Wally’s.

Below I detail the Sella & Mosca wines tasted at this luncheon, as well as the incomparable food pairings courtesy of Celestino Drago at Drago Centro. Note that the menu was created to try different wines with different courses, so it was not a straight one course + one wine per pairing.

Crab Salad Toast, Truffle Arancini, and Tuna Crostini

Torbato Brut 2017 Alghero Torbato Spumante DOC $24.99 (12.5% ABV)
This wine has bright fruit notes of pear and green apple with a delicate whiteflower note on the back end, but not as much florals as you’d get from a Prosecco. This wine has medium + acid and is quite round…not austere. A fabulous pairing for seafood. I feel very honored to try this wine as Sella & Mosca makes the only varietally labeled Turbato in the world! Fun fact: they are working on a traditional method Turbato sparkler that is still sitting on the lees and aging. That would be a treat to try!

First Course
Scallop, Roasted Maitake Mushroom, Truffle Beurre Blanc 

Second Course
Tagiolini, Seabass, Cherry Tomato, Pine Nut, Fish Fumet 

Le Arenaire Sauvignon Blanc 2017 Alghero DOC $17.99 (13% ABV)
A much riper nose (less green) than the ubiquitous Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. It is round, ripe, but with gripping acid, just as you’d expect from a Sauvignon Blanc. Citrus (Meyer lemon), green fruit, and a hint of tropical notes (unripe pineapple). A very well-balanced wine…I really love this one. Great acid and great body. Fabulous with both the scallop and the pasta course. And at $17.99, a great QPR compared to other Sauv Blancs out there where the quality can be a bit lacking at that pricepoint.

Monteoro 2016 Vermentino di Gallura Superiore DOCG $26.99 (14% ABV)
Vermentino is a well-known grape to Sardinia. It is found in other regions (such as Liguria and Tuscany) but 75% of Italy’s Vermentino finds its home in Sardinia. In France it is known as Rolle. Here in Sardinia this wine is produced in Vermentino di Gallura, Sardinia’s only DOCG, formed in 1996. A lovely almond-skin nose gives this wine a true “Sardinian” feel, as you know instantly this is not one of the international varieties. Typicity reigns with Vermentino in Sardinia. 

Third Course
Lamb Loin, Venere Risotto, Roasted Beets, Bartlett Pears, Lamb Jus 

Fourth Course
Chef’s Assorted Cheeses 

Cannonau di Sardegna Riserva DOC 2015 $17.99 (14.5% ABV)
Cannonau is known elsewhere as Grenache, a thin-skinned red variety. Over 700 years ago the Spanish brought Grenache to Sardinia and over time the grape has changed and now it’s known as Cannonau. This wine gives bright red fruit, floral (violet) notes, graphite/minerality, earth, umami/mushroom, and balsamic notes. No joke, my tasting notes on the palate says: HOLY SHIT. This wine inspires me. For $17.99 you are transported to the Mediterranean. To Sardinia. Italian wines tend to do this……they take you there. Whether it’s through the nose or the taste, or how the wine plays with the food, or how it brings back memories of perhaps a trip you took to Italy. It is quite a special thing and this wine reminds me why I LOVE Italian wines. There is just something about them.

Tanca Farrà Alghero DOC 2014 $26.99 (13.5% ABV)
This guy is 50% Cannonau and 50% Cabernet Sauvignon. You can actually smell/taste the structure and backbone that Cab Sauv lends.

Marchese di Villamarina Alghero DOC 2010 $59.99 (13% ABV)
The grapes for this wine originate in the Villamarina vineyard of the estate. After harvest and fermentation, the wine is matured in small French oak casks for 18 months before transfer to larger oak barrels for a further year. After bottling, it is aged an additional 18 months. A beautiful, well-balance wine. Really nice. 

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