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 for the food enthusiast. The Sardinians have defended themselves from the Phoenicians, Romans, Egyptians, and the Byzantines. With its jagged cliffs and mountain formed walls, Sardinia has even survived a horrific volcanic past. The outcome of such characteristics has resulted in a present day paradise for the jetset, 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 method.
Mostly known for their delicious Vermentino and Cannonau (a grape derived from Grenache); Cantina Santa Maria La Palma has also rediscovered and 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 beautiful wine that may be considered to have more qualities in common with Spanish than Italian wine. The limited quantities produced offer a sense of exotic refinement which one will only receive in Sardinia.
At of glance, the traditional cuisine of Sardinia reveals the intriguing fact that 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 are considered to 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 breaks down the cheese’s fat making the texture of the cheese soft, spreadable and becomingly sour. Though it is now illegal, Sardinian’s 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 too sparingly consumed. However, su porcheddu, in the local dialect, or 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 so 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 crunchy and absolutely mouth watering. I guarantee, suckling pig will never taste the same again after leaving Sardinia. Savor with a glass of the local Cagnulari, as a true Sardinian.
Food and wine is only one aspect of a country, yet it is one of the most persistent in growing awareness. Being able to understand food traditions helps us to understand a culture, which is an indispensable component to any human communication. Though food is a necessity to life, when carefully crafted, and accompanied by a beautiful glass of wine, cuisine does turn into an everyday art form that will evoke taste, smell, and a panging nostalgia to anyone who chooses to embrace it.
Savoring Traditions original publish date, September 2016