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The Grenache grape holds the honor of being the most widely planted wine grape varietal on earth. It has a long and impressive history, and has been the backbone of the some of the planet’s most respected and famed wine regions, blended with Syrah in regions such as Chateauneuf du Pape, and in certain other Loire and Languedoc regions where it reigns supreme as a single varietal wine grape. In other key areas, such as Spain’s La Rioja (where it is known as Garnacha Tinta), it is blended with Tempranillo to make that country’s signature red wine, and is widely used as a blending grape in other old and new world countries, due to its unique character and jammy, fruit forward character.
For a long time, the Grenache grape was somewhat looked down upon as an ignoble varietal, incapable of producing wines of any particular interest. However, times are very much changing - in the right hands, Grenache grapes result in astonishingly intense and complex wines, full of fascinating features, and capable of achieving plenty of expression. For a while now, Grenache has been a major player in Australian wines. While not yet quite as extensively planted down under as Shiraz is, the Barossa Valley is bringing out some of the finest examples of this grape’s wines in recent years.
There are few countries in the world with a viticultural history as long or as illustrious as that claimed by Italy. Grapes were first being grown and cultivated on Italian soil several thousand years ago by the Greeks and the Pheonicians, who named Italy 'Oenotria' – the land of wines – so impressed were they with the climate and the suitability of the soil for wine production. Of course, it was the rise of the Roman Empire which had the most lasting influence on wine production in Italy, and their influence can still be felt today, as much of the riches of the empire came about through their enthusiasm for producing wines and exporting it to neighbouring countries. Since those times, a vast amount of Italian land has remained primarily for vine cultivation, and thousands of wineries can be found throughout the entire length and breadth of this beautiful country, drenched in Mediterranean sunshine and benefiting from the excellent fertile soils found there. Italy remains very much a 'land of wines', and one could not imagine this country, its landscape and culture, without it.
The beautiful Mediterranean island of Sardinia is a haven for wine lovers, and viticulture is very much a part of the lifestyle of this special patch of land off the Italian coast. Indeed, Sardinia is renowned as being home to an impressive high number of centenarians, their longevity said to be a result of the amount of red wine they regularly drink. Although winemaking has only really taken off on Sardinia over the past couple of centuries, wines have been produced in Sardinia for well over two thousand years. Vines were originally cultivated by travelling settlers such as the Phoenicians and then boosted by the Roman empire, whose influence is still felt in the landscape today.
Sardinia may have been designated as one of Italy’s main wine regions in the mid 18th century, but its island status has long ensured that the winemakers here have their own identity and viticulture, of which they are very proud. Unlike other Italian wine regions, Sardinia is strongly influenced by French and Spanish viticulture, and it isn’t unusual to find fine wines from the island made from Garnacha or Cabernet Sauvignon, although Italian varietals such as Malvasia are also very popular. Sardinia has one DOCG appellation, Vermentino di Gallura, which produces beautifully elegant white wines made from the Vermentino grape which grows with great expression on the island.