Tucked between Spain and Tunisia is the second largest island in the Mediterranean. An individualistic region of the Italian Republic, Sardinia is home to spectacular beauty, ancient history, and of course, mouth watering sips and savors.
The Sardinians have defended themselves from the Phoenicians, Romans, Egyptians, and the Byzantine Empire. With its jagged cliffs and mountain formed walls, Sardinia has even survived a horrific volcanic past. The outcome of such a history has resulted into a present day paradise for the jet set, the overly stressed American, and even the wine lover.
On the northwest coast, protected by ancient walls and cannons is the Catalan-influenced city of Alghero. Regarded as one of the finest wine regions in Sardinia, Alghero offers a promising terroir that is heavily influenced by its coastline where significant pride is taken in the vines of Cantina Santa Maria La Palma. Since 1959, Cantina Santa Maria La Palma has allocated, and preserved the characteristics of Sardinian tradition. In a cooperative setting utilizing modern technology, Cantina Santa Maria La Palma offers a harmonious fusion of old world mentality with new world methods.
Mostly known for their delicious Vermentino and Cannonau (a grape derived from Grenache); Cantina Santa Maria La Palma has also revived two equally prestigious grape varieties unique to Sardinia: Monica and Cagnulari. Both varieties are remnants of Spanish antiquity, and date back to the 11th century. These varieties require care and attention to cultivate, but not in vain. Monica and Cagnulari provide history in a glass, and may be considered to have qualities more in common with Spanish than Italian wine. The limited quantities produced offer a sense of exotic refinement which one will only find in Sardinia.
At a glance, the traditional cuisine of Sardinia reveals intriguing facts. The people not only eat what is available, but also eat what is considered to be edible. With an abundance of artichokes, seafood, figs, nuts, wines and cheeses at their fingertips; it is no wonder the people of Sardinia have one of the longest life expectancies in the world.
Casu Marzu, a Sardinian delicacy has been enjoyed for centuries. The rotten sheep milk cheese is literally alive containing larvae. Don’t worry, they are barely noticeable – unless they jump at you! Derived from Pecorino, Casu Marzu goes beyond usual fermentation and is served for enjoyment decomposed. The acid from the larvae break down the cheese’s fat making the texture of the cheese soft, spreadable and becomingly sour. Though it is now illegal, Sardinians still produce Casu Marzu, and are eager to share this local tradition with a crisp glass of Passito, though, Cannonau is another likely accompaniment.
Meat, as one would imagine is not sparingly consumed. However, su porcheddu, in the local dialect; suckling pig is reserved for feasts and celebrations. The dish is associated with agro pastoral cuisine, but has become quite the fine dining delicacy. Suckling pig, a babe between 20 to 40 days old is so buttery and delicate, because it has contained a diet of only its mother’s milk. The method of roasting directly above lit coals and ash causes a spectacle, but more importantly contributes to the crackling being perfectly crunchy and absolutely mouth watering. It is a guarantee that suckling pig will never taste the same if had outside of Sardinia. Savor with a glass of the local Cagnulari like a true Sardinian!
Food and wine is only one beautiful aspect of Sardinia, yet it is one of the most persistent in growing awareness. Being able to understand food traditions help us to understand it’s culture, which is an indispensable component to any human communication. Though food is a necessity of life, when carefully crafted, or accompanied by a beautiful glass of wine, cuisine turns into an every day art that evokes taste, smell, and a panging nostalgia to anyone who embraces it.