Enjoy a fine Vermentino from its homeland.
2020 from €11.90, 16.50 Swiss francs, 149 Danish kroner, $24, £17.93, 690 Ukrainian hryvnia
2019 from €13.90, $19, 17.90 Swiss francs, £18.95
Professional tastings are not the only place to discover great wines.
I came across this well-priced, sophisticated Sardinian white in a tasting organised by Giovanna's Italian deli, wine bar and pizzeria (within walking distance of my home in east London) to reward loyal customers by giving them the chance to taste more than 30 wines and vote for two that would feature on the next wine list. I haven't seen the full results but Antonella Corda's 2020 Vermentino di Sardegna was my choice for the white.
It had slipped my memory that Jancis had made Corda's excellent Cannonau di Sardegna her wine of the wine at the start of this year, so you will find plenty of background information in that article. (I also very much enjoyed the Cannonau 2019 when I tasted it last week.)
As Jancis recounted, Antonella Corda has Sardinian wine in her blood: she is the granddaughter of the pioneering Sardinian oenologist Antonio Argiolas, whose name lives on at the sizeable Argiolas estate run by Franco and Giuseppe Argiolas.
Corda studied agricultural sciences and technology at the University of Sassari, then wine management at the Edmund Mach Foundation in northern Italy, taking on her own family business, in Serdiana, 20 kilometres (12 miles) north of Cagliari in the south of the island, in 2010.
She also inherited two vineyards from her grandfather and this Vermentino comes from one of those, Mitza Manna, apparently her grandfather's favourite. While her farming is not certified organic, according to her website, she chooses 'organic fertilisers, integrated pest control and sustainable irrigation systems'. Mitza Manna, pictured below, stretches over 6 ha (15 acres) at an elevation of 200 m (660 ft), cooled by its elevation and proximity to the sea, and is planted with Vermentino and Nuragus. The soil is sandy clay and loam with a significant component of calcium, which Corda believes enhances the freshness.
Winemaking is very simple, as is the design of the winery, pictured below: hand-picked grapes are gently pressed in a vacuum press. Corda protects the fruit using dry ice to preserve the aromas and reduce the use of SO2. Part of the must underwent a period of pre-fermentation maceration for six hours, before all of the must was fermented at controlled temperatures for 15 days in stainless-steel tanks. The wine was then aged for six months on fine lees in stainless steel before bottling.
The result is a truly elegant example of this typically fragrant variety – known as Rolle in the south of France – although here the fragrance of zesty citrus and wild scrubland is tempered by a stony, minerally quality, particularly on the wonderfully persistent aftertaste. It's bone dry, with a slight chalky friction in the texture. There's an almost salty/sour flavour on the lingering finish. It's a wine I'd describe as scented rather than perfumed, delicate but with a deep core of fruit and freshness. Intense rather than powerful. The alcohol is a well-balanced 13.5%.
It was the 2020 that I tasted at Giovanna's but when I discovered that the 2019 was still available, particularly in the US, UK retailer WineTrust kindly sent me one of their bottles of the 2019 to taste.
I found the 2019 to be quite different from the 2020, fuller in the mouth (the alcohol is 14%) and more powerful. The citrus and wild herbs are still there but there's also a more savoury and cedar-like flavour, both from the extra year in bottle and due to the different weather conditions around harvest (see below). A little less tension and elegance and a little more richness and spice, somehow more savoury, too. This vintage seems to be, or have become, more complex even if it lacks the elegance of the 2020. As with my wine of the week last month, I'd highly recommend both vintages or, better still, trying to get one bottle of each vintage to make the fascinating comparison.
Corda characterised the weather conditions of the two vintages as follows:
'2020 and 2019 are two very interesting and positive vintages. 2020 for me is the best ever. The 2019 vintage had a regular trend from the climatic point of view until the end, when intense precipitation favoured a swelling of the bunches due to intense rain. Immediately after we had a strong heat that concentrated sugars and aromatic compounds. So we had a slightly higher alcohol content but also more intense aromas. The 2020 vintage – free from extreme phenomena – was characterised very favourably in all its aspects. Thanks to the climate and the phytosanitary quality we obtained an elegant, intense, but at the same time very pleasant and balanced wine.'
The 2019 seems to be more widely available in the US (imported by Shiverick Imports) than is the 2020, the 2020 more widely available in the UK than the 2019 – though you can find both vintages via the Wine-Searcher links above.
Antonella Corda's wines are available in the UK (via Liberty Wines), the US (Shiverick Imports), Italy, Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Ukraine, Australia and Japan.