Cheers to longevity
Sardinian wine may hold the key to a long life
Cannonau di Sardegna may be earning its’ fame as the “longevity grape from Sardinia”, but for all the touted health benefits it offers, it is a remarkably palatable drop.
The “it’s good for you” spin, may be just the work of clever local marketers, but what is beyond doubt is that the tiny island of Sardinia in the Tyrrhenian Sea, has one of the world’s highest concentrations of centenarians on the planet. In fact, on Sardinia, the population of 1.61 million people have over 370 (at last count) who are over one hundred years of age. This means that on the tiny autonomous Island region of Italy, you are at least 20 times more likely to live to the age of 100, than if you live in the USA!
And while no-one really knows the secret to Sardinian longevity, it is widely believed that the local diet and lifestyle is a key contributor to their long-life expectancy. These Sardinian locals are generally active, work well beyond 65, eat a lot of grains and vegetables and very little meat. Perhaps also of significance, is the fact that on most days, they enjoy a couple of glasses of their local wines. And in Sardinia, the fava beans and chickpeas are typically washed down by a glass of the Cannonau di Sardegna, which is the local name for Grenache. In fact, some research even suggests that the Grenache grape may have originated in Sardinia, rather than France! The Cannonau style accounts for about 20% of all wine made on the Island and in order to meet the DOC criteria, must have a minimum alcohol concentration of 13% and be aged for at least two years prior to release.
The hot, arid climate on the Island is perfectly suited to growing Grenache, and the Cannonau grapes in particular, as they have a very think and hard outer skin. It is this same substantial outer layer that imparts the antioxidants that are thought to contribute to the health value of the wine – mainly because the skin is high in cardiac friendly antioxidants; anthocyanins and polyphenols.
Costera Cannonau di Sardegna Argiolas 2014
A delicious example of the style is the Costera Cannonau di Sardegna Argiolas 2014 ($38) which I had to order from a Melbourne based importer. It’s rather rubyesque in the glass and delivers nuances of cloves and bramble on the nose. Once the whiffing is done, layers of sweet blueberries and stewed plums present themselves across the palate. I am a little surprised that the tannic influence is so relatively moderate given the skin contact, and that such that liquorice and cranberry characters can overcome the savoury middle and evolve through the finish. I’d probably describe it as being of only medium palate weight but it is a wine that is thoroughly approachable in its youth, and I’m confident that the tannins will soften with time.
So, if you are a believer in the Sardinian story and want to drink your way to long life, this may very well be the wine for you – and possibly even justify a tipple on what would otherwise be one of those mid-week alcohol free days?