Sergio Loi is a 4th generation traditional Sardinian producer, whose family winery from the early 900s has always practiced no chemical farming and minimum intervention in the cellar. The Cardedu [car-DAY-do] vineyards are located on the island’s sparsely populated Southeast, where soils are crumbling granite near the coast, and schist in ragged-dry cliffs around Jerzu.
Sardinian producers are now catching up in popularity to those of Italy’s other large island, Sicilia. One difference that remains is that Sardinia remains more ‘lost in time.’ Cardedu balances on that edge of being traditional but also thoughtful, especially considering today’s warmer climate. In the last few vintages – extremely hot and dry – Cardedu has made lower alcohol wines by picking earlier and careful vineyard management. The result, thankfully, isn’t overtly 10% hipster juice without terroir. Sergio says, it’s just wine that tastes more like the cool vintages he enjoyed in the ’70’s.
Here’s a back story that helped me to understand this producer’s wines better: I asked Sergio before a visit if he could help me fulfill one of my culinary bucket-list items: to eat the infamous, and illegal, Sardinian cheese Casu Marzu in Sardinia.
The first time I heard of Casu Marzu , it seemed like something Keyser Söze would eat for breakfast. For the uninitiated, it’s a spreadable Pecorino cheese, made in the sheep’s own stomach, that becomes extremely creamy due to a colony of live maggots that act as an army of chefs with stick blenders. One eats around the maggots.
At one point during that visit, Sergio smiled mischievously as he lathered some more Casu Marzu on the local crispy flat bread called Carasau. He then poured me some of this macerated house orange wine he called ‘Bucce’ (Bucce means skins):
‘You need a wine that goes down by the bucket to eat maggot-filled Casu Marzu, but also a wine that has enough character to stand up to it.’
And, that’s how I’ve always thought of all the Cardedu wines: super drinkable, but also with enough character to stand up to that archaic Casu Marzu cheese.
Overview of Wines:
A savoury and light white wine: sea salt, sage, basil, rosemary, cedar, and a foundation of chalky stone fruits. Spaghetti alla Bottarga or alla anything-ocean-mare; grilled shrimp with rosemary sprigs as skewer; a healthychunk of Pecorino Sardo. With vegetables, it’s becomes the special sauce.
The local Monica grape is fermented with native yeasts in cavernous cement tanks under the house. A zingy light bodied red wine: think spicy-underbrush, herbal notes, and just a touch of fruit. Toasted fregola pasta with small clams, canned sardines, meaty olives. Good with a slight chill, good with a luver.
Caladu (Canonau di Jerzu)
Can[n]onau (Cardedu uses the old spelling with just one ‘N’). Canonau is a biotype of Grenache (Fr.) or Granacha (Sp.), most likely from Spain, but growing in Sardegna for hundreds of years it could be considered native. Spice and smoke mingle with fleshy red plums and raspberries. Cadedu’s old vines (avg. 25-50 years old) provide a depth to the fruit, decomposed granite soils keep the wines fresh. All things grilled.
Bucce (Orange / Macerato):
Bucce means skins, as in macerated on the skins / macerato sulle bucce. This macerato / orange wine is very drinky: sour Mirabelle plums, sea salt, and dried white flowers float on bass notes of coastal wild rosemary and myrtle, i.e. macchia mediterranea. Steamed cozze anyone?
Astili (light red field blend that includes wild Bovale Sardo grape):
Astili is a field blend coferment that comes from Sergio’s oldest and highest altitude vineyard, perched just above the town of Cardedu on the slope of Mount Astili; it’s planted to Cannonau, Bovale Sardo / Muristeddu, Monica, and Pascale varietes. In the mouth, Cannonau’s familiar red plum fruit and Monica’s herbal notes get charged with Bovale’s electric-acidity, and fractal tannins. Wild! Tuna belly on lentils.
Wine Tech Sheets:
Cardedu ‘Nùo’ Vermentino di Sardegna
Cardedu ‘Praja’ Monica di Sardegna
Cardedu ‘Caladu’ Canonau di Sardegna
Cardedu ‘Bucce’ Bianco Sardegna [macerato / orange]
Cardedu ‘Astili’ Rosso Sardegna