Cannonau (aka Grenache) is grown all over Sardegna, but the town of Mamoiada, in the heart of the island’s mountainous interior, could be considered one of its grand cru sites. Planted at dizzying altitudes on soils of sandy decomposed granite, the grape finds a grandiose expression that channels Barolo while rivaling, in its own way, the finest Grenaches from Châteauneuf or Priorat.
With a mere two hectares of vines and a radically artisanal approach to his craft, Giovanni Montisci has established himself as one of Mamoiada’s foremost ambassadors. Unsatisfied in his job as a mechanic, he turned his full attention to cultivating tiny vineyard plots inherited from his wife’s family, ultimately bottling his first wine from the 2004 vintage. He has since earned a cult-like following for his powerful and distinctive Cannonaus from organically farmed old vines grown up to 650 meters elevation. The chilly nights here allow for slow and steady ripening, preserving precious acidity and favoring rich, complex wines perfumed of wild fruit, flowers, Mediterranean herbs, and spices—a truly compelling translation of this extreme terroir, which shines alongside the hearty local cuisine of Sardegna’s mountains.
Giovanni’s wines are the product of his painstaking attention to detail, from the meticulous work among his ancient alberello-trained vines to the gorgeous Quintarelli-inspired labels adorning each bottle. All of his wines, including the fleshy dry Moscato and deep, vinous Cannonau rosato, are fermented spontaneously, aged in neutral wood, and bottled unfined and unfiltered with minimal SO2. “Barrosu”, his flagship Cannonau, perfectly embodies the rugged beauty of these mountainous highlands, while the Riserva “Franzisca”, from 85-year-old vines, displays astonishing finesse for such a potent, structured red—proof that Sardegna is capable of much, much more than the simple quaffer.