2024 Host: Alghero, Sardinia
Sardinia emerges from its bubble
The Italian island has been selected by the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles to host the sparkling wine session of the competition. The tastings will take place from 10 to 12 July in the town of Alghero, in the north-western part of the island.
From 10 to 12 July
Sardinia, located in the Mediterranean Sea, is Italy’s second largest island. It is renowned for its magnificent white-sand beaches, its crystal-clear water and its spectacular rock formations. The island also boasts a rich history with Neolithic vestiges and fascinating archaeological sites. In terms of food, it is a showcase for seafood dishes, local cheeses and regional wines. Over the past few years, the quality of its wine production has constantly improved, increasingly securing Sardinia an international reputation as an ‘island of wine’ through the efforts of its 400 or so producers.
An ancient winegrowing history
Archaeological digs and sophisticated scientific analyses such as carbon-14 dating have revealed the presence of vines and wines in Sardinia as early as the 15th century BC, in the Bronze Age, approximately 3,500 years ago. Winegrowing is an integral part of Sardinia’s history and relentless work by regional wineries since the last century has helped turn the spotlight on this invaluable heritage by focusing on the production of quality wines. Although Sardinia is primarily renowned for its still wines, production of sparkling and semi-sparkling wines has experienced a quantum leap over the past 20 years.
An explosion of bubbles
Production of sparkling and semi-sparkling wines in Alghero and across all of Sardinia reflects the versatility and creativity of local producers. The island’s wineries have ensured incremental progress in the production of sparkling and semi-sparkling wines that are renowned for their unique character and roots that run deep into local winemaking traditions. This growth is stoked by innovative exploration into native grape varieties and increased international recognition. Local firms have started experimenting with a variety of winemaking techniques, mainly the traditional method and Charmat technique, in order to produce sparkling wines.
The grape varieties used for
crafting sparkling wines
Vermentino: This white-berry grape variety is perhaps Sardinia’s most iconic. It is extremely expressive with an ability to mirror the range of vineyard sites on the island. It produces wines scented with fresh citrus, white flowers and distinctive minerality. On the palate, it is bright and harmonious with flavourful acidity. The Vermentino di Sardegna DOC sparkling wine illustrates the way in which the varietal can express itself as a sparkling iteration.
Cannonau: Sardinian Cannonau is a red grape variety known as Grenache in France and Garnacha in Spain. It offers up a complex bouquet of red fruits, spices and Mediterranean garrigue notes. It is renowned for its high polyphenol content and the longevity of its wines. Cannonau is mainly famed for its robust red wines but it is also used to produce sparkling rosé wines showing very articulate aromatics.
Le Sauvignon Blanc et le Steiermark
Torbato: This is a heritage white cultivar, almost entirely grown around Alghero. It delivers wines showing distinctive white-fleshed fruit notes, minerality and fresh acidity. Its originality and ability to encapsulate Alghero’s terroir make it an interesting varietal with a propensity for producing aromatic sparkling wines with floral and mineral notes.
Nuragus: This is one of Sardinia’s oldest grape varieties. It displays a characteristic delicate, floral style with notes of green apple and almond. It is light and pleasant and often used for still wines though is also suitable for producing light, pleasant sparkling wines.
Cagnulari: This is a red grape variety whose roots are found mainly in the Alghero region of Sardinia. It yields intensely-coloured wines with aromas of black fruits and spices. The variety has begun to attract attention for its distinctive aromatic style and its versatility. Though still under the radar, it shows interesting potential for producing sparkling rosé wines due to its aromatic character and good structure.
Malvasia: In Sardinia, Malvasia mainly produces sweet, aromatic wines with a hallmark style suffused with notes of apricot, honey and white flowers. However Malvasia is a versatile grape variety and can also be used to make still and sparkling wines, invariably offering up good acidity and intense fruity aromas.
Vernaccia: The Vernaccia di Oristano grape variety produces a unique wine that is often matured. It delivers a distinctive oxidative style with notes of almond, dried fruits and faint salinity. Vernaccia is famed for its ageing capacity and becomes increasingly rich and complex over time.
Moscato: In Sardinia, Moscato is mostly used to produce Moscato di Sorso-Sennori and Moscato di Cagliari, both of them DOCs. The grapes yield still or sparkling wines defined by balanced sweetness and fresh acidity.
Chardonnay: One of the most famous white grape varieties, Chardonnay is grown worldwide. Its substantial versatility allows it to adapt to different climates and vineyard sites, producing a very broad array of styles. Chardonnay is also an essential component of many high quality sparkling wines. Its popularity can be ascribed to its instantly user-friendly style but also to its ability to show subtle site-expressiveness.
Increased demand for sparkling wines on the international stage offers significant opportunities for Sardinian producers to shine and export their wines worldwide. Also, Sardinian sparkling and semi-sparkling wines can excel for celebrations and as aperitif wines, demonstrating their versatility and appeal for a broad consumer audience. To conclude, production of sparkling and semi-sparkling wines in Alghero and Sardinia is a dynamic, booming industry which deserves special attention. By combining tradition and innovation, Sardinian winegrowers craft sparkling wines that reflect not only the island’s unique terroir, but also its vibrant and welcoming spirit.
The tastings will be held from 10 to 12 July 2024