Di Madre In Vigna. Antonella Corda four years on
Di Madre In Vigna? That must be Antonella Corda in Sardinia. That phrase is prominent on her bottle labels. It says that the land is the mother to the vines. But you could infer that Antonella Corda is also the vines’ mother. Four years ago, I had the great fortune to meet with Antonella Corda in Sardinia and try her spectacular wines from the 2016 and 2017 vintages. Since then, her wines have become highly regarded worldwide. For example, Gambero Rosso gave their coveted emerging winery of the year award in 2019. And the wines have picked up many medals and trophies in competitions and exhibitions.
Rather than repeat the details about Antonella Corda and her boutique Sardinian winery near Cagliari, you can find all that information in the original article posted here. So instead, this piece, four years on, looks at her wines from the 2020 and 2021 vintages.
First off, the vineyards were in organic conversion four years ago. Now that’s completed, and indeed the bio credentials are shown on the label of the latest vintage of Cannonau. As Antonella says, cultivating the soil means adding value to its fruits without exploiting it”.
Secondly, while all the wines are bottled under cork, I note DIAM now supplies these, so high quality is assured. Third, the current wines have 0.5% more alcohol. This slight increase could result from this particular vintage or an effect of roundings. However, it might be part of a climate change trend, not that this affects the quality profile of these wines.
Then importantly, the Vermentino and Cannonau are now readily available in the UK. Lastly, here’s my first (and much-anticipated) encounter with a relatively new wine called Ziru. What hasn’t changed is that Antonella Corda’s wines remain of excellent quality and value.
Here they are.
The wines – di madre in vigna
Vermentino di Sardegna DOC, 2021, 14%
The Vermentino is picked in early September and fermented in stainless steel. It’s then aged six months in stainless steel on the lees before bottling under DIAM 5 cork. It’s a subtle and delicious white wine. Pale and bright, it’s highly aromatic, with herbs and camphor amidst white blossoms. The mouthwatering palate has fresh tingling and slightly saline acidity. The long finish has an almond bite at the end.
Delicious and distinctive, it’s drinking perfectly now and over the next 2-3 years. There’s a natural affinity here for all things fishy. Indeed, the brilliant acidity pairs well with oily, fried or battered fish. This particular bottle perfectly matched fresh crab with crusty sourdough bread. Thirty-one thousand bottles are made on average each year. Widely available, for example, at London End Wines, £17.50.
Cannonau di Sardegna DOC, 2021, 14.5%
Cannonau is the signature red grape of Sardegna, a distinctive form of Grenache/Garnacha. Grape picking is in late September, with fermentation in stainless steel. Maturation is for six months, split between stainless steel tanks and untoasted oak barriques. This unusual combination ensures no overt wood flavours while ensuring an elegant silken texture. The cork is a DIAM 5, implying that this wine will happily keep for five years but that it’s designed for drinking now and over the next 2-3 years. My tasting note from 2016 said that this was a light brick-red colour, with white pepper and rose aromatics mixed in with red cherry and raspberry fruit. The tannins are exceptionally soft, balanced by fresh acidity and with an underbrush and almond finale. That description applies in equal measure to this 2021 vintage.
Cannonau’s classic food matches are roast meats of all persuasions, but also try roasted vegetables or a seared tuna steak.
In short, this wine remains one of the most exciting expressions of Cannonau. The 2016 vintage received Gambero Rosso’s Tre Biccheri, while this 2021 is just as good. Twenty thousand bottles are made on average each year. Widely available, so buy all you can. Again, London End Wines, £23.00.
Ziru, Isola Dei Nuraghi IGP, 2020, 14.5%
Ziru is an unusual interpretation of Vermentino. The grape harvest was at the end of August, with fermentation on the grape skins. Maturation was then in amphorae for 24 months. Bottled without filtration and under a DIAM 10 cork, this a wine that, while drinking now, also has excellent ageing potential. Unfortunately, that amphora maturation doesn’t fit the Vermentino di Sardegna DOC rules. Hence it’s an Isola Dei Nuraghi IGP. That’s a humble catch-all appellation for the entire island and one where reds are more numerous than whites. But rest assured, there’s nothing ordinary about this wine. Because the first release was only 830 bottles, a lack of availability meant I never had the opportunity to try it. However, production has grown to a tiny 1250 bottles, and so here it is.
Ziru is the local name for the traditional terracotta amphorae that preserve wine and oil in these parts. Bright and yellow-golden, the aromas are predominantly of ripe orchard fruits, though there are hints of hazelnut and almonds. There’s a great intensity of complex orchard fruit flavours on the palate, plus a hint of honey and balsam. The skin contact has introduced tannins and extra colour, aiding development and longevity. Tannins also influence the texture, which, while remaining silken, adds a firmer mouthfeel. The acidity remains vibrant, while a long, refreshing saline finish rounds things off.
As for food matching, those tannins mean that Ziru is a good foil for white meats, so think roast chicken, turkey, grouse and guinea fowl.
Ziru is now in some European merchants for €30.00, though still not yet available in the UK. So I’ll continue to lobby the UK Importers, Liberty Wines, for a stash.
Sardinia is gaining more and more attention thanks to a tremendous viticultural inheritance of native varieties, different terroirs, and great winemakers. Antonella Corda is a reference point for Sardinia, and di madre in vigna is an accurate description.
Her Cannonau and Vermentino rank with Sardinia’s best. Eagle-eyed readers will note that the Nuragus di Cagliari DOC wine was not available for review this time. Meanwhile, the extraordinary Ziru is a triumph of skilful winemaking. To be clear, it’s not an “orange wine”, and neither does it smell or taste of stale cider. Instead, the amphorae bring out new nuances, offer extra complexity and mouthfeel, yet retain terroir and varietal character. It’s a yang to the Vermentino di Sardegna DOCs’ yin and one of Italy’s most outstanding amphora-based wines. Drinking now, how might this wine show in ten years? Hopefully, I’ll get to find out!
Azienda Agricola Corda Antonella
Loc. Pranu Raimondo
800, SS466, 6km