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Essential Winemakers of Italy ©Opening a Bottle

Cardedu, Sardinia

Primary Grapes: Cannonau, Monica, Vermentino

Primary Appellations: Cannonau di Sardegna DOC, Monica di Sardegna DOC, Vermentino di Sardegna DOC

American Importer: Portovino



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Why Cardedu is Essential

Cardedu may be one of the most peculiar entries on my Essential Winemakers list. The wines are made by Alberto Loi, a traditionalist winery in the rugged Sardinian province of Ogliastra. The main production line of wines — under the Alberto Loi moniker, which I have not yet sampled — are distributed internationally. Cardedu was intended to represent something different: the rustic wines of Sardinia’s past. Turns out, the international market wanted those, too, and for good reason.

There are only three wines — a Cannonau, Monica and Vermentino — which are exotic in their fruity tones yet transparent in their intentions: they want you to like them.

The star here is the Cannonau, a grape that is genetically identical to Grenache. If you are thinking of typical varietal Grenache, think again. The difference here is the judicious use of oak (part in large casks, part in concrete) and the restrained alcohol, which I think allows the varietal to stand in the spotlight and show off its mineral character. In fact, if Grenache had its alcohol kept in check like Loi does here, it would be one of my favorite wine grapes.

Many of the wines that reach our shore from Sardinia are Cannonau which deliberately skew to the international palate (i.e. dumb power and anonymous oak). Cardedu will make you say: to hell with that. Give me the “rustic” stuff.

Cardedu "Caladu" Cannonau di Sardegna DOC ©Kevin Day/Opening – Sardinian red wine

Wines to Seek Out

Cardedu’s line up of wines have one common trait: a lifted tone on the finish — “minerality” in wine speak — that brings each sip to a proper completion. Much of this we can attribute to Ogliastra’s granitic soils, which are harnessed to great effect by this winemaker.

Cardedu “Caladu” Cannonau di Sardegna

Caladu is the most complex of the Cardedu collection. From its aromas of hard candy and just-passed rainstorm, to the tease of juiciness yet coarse and mineral way the wine presents itself on the palate, you might be thinking of a Morgon if you tasted it blind. I was so captivated by it that I bought it a second (and third) time just to try and pin it down.

Cardedu “Praja” Monica di Sardegna

A spectacularly fresh, curiously herbal, and dangerously delicious wine in its own right, Praja showcases a little-known local grape that is often reserved for blending: Monica. It is lighter, more spry, and begging to be your new red wine for summer.

Cardedu “Nou” Vermentino di Sardegna

Vermentino has been in the wrong hands of too many winemakers for a long time: Here, it is given the space it needs to reveal a mineral texture that is often lacking. A truly delectable wine of depth and clarity.

Originally listed: March 2019.

Visiting Cardedu / Alberto Loi

Tastings at Alberto Loi are available by appointment onlyContact the winery directly to set up an appointment.


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