Girò, Nasco, Nuragus: the Grapes of Cagliari

Cagliari coastline

Cagliari is the capital city of the Italian island (region) of Sardegna (Sardinia). Located on the southern edge of the island, the city and its surrounding municipality (also known as Cagliari) are home to more than 430,000 people.

Cagliari is a modern city built on and around the ruins of an ancient civilization; people have lived and congregated here for over 5,000 years. There are many amazing sites to see for the traveling history buff: check out the spooky pre-historic chamber tombs of Domus de Janas, the Roman Amphitheatre of Cagliari, or the hilltop citadel Il Castell. Art lovers will want to make sure to leave time to visit the Galleria Comunale d’Arte di Cagliari —and anyone and everyone will want to spend some time on Poetto beach.

Foodies will have plenty to keep them occupied as well. In addition to the ridiculously abundant seafood, be sure and try the uniquely Sardinian Pane Carasau (a thin, crisp bread), fregola (a small, pearled pasta somewhat similar to couscous), and culurgiones (stuffed pasta similar to ravioli). Of course, you’ll want to eat as much Pecorino—a sheep’s milk cheese made in many regions of Italy, with a great deal produced in the area around Cagliari—as you possibly can.

Poetto Beach

And then there is the wine. The island of Sardegna produces a great deal of wine, much of it reflecting the 400-year Spanish rule that lasted until the 1700s. Sardegna boasts 18 PDO wines, including Cannonau di Sardegna DOC, Malvasia di Bosa DOC, and Vermentino di Gallura DOCG—the island’s only DOCG.

There is also a Cagliari DOC that encompasses the city and municipality of Cagliari as well as a good section of the island’s southern and western portions. A range of wines are produced under the auspices of the Cagliari DOC, including red wines based on the Monica grape, white wines using Moscato and/or Vermentino, and both still and sparkling wines based on Malvasia.

Cagliari also produces some unique wines based on unique grapes, such as Nasco (Nasco di Cagliari DOC), Girò (Girò di Cagliari DOC) and Nuragus (Nuragus di Cagliari DOC). It was the unfamiliar (to me) names of these grapes that caught my eye and inspired this post. You’ll find some information about these grapes and these wines below—hopefully you’ll find them as interesting as I did.

Photo by Fabio Ingrosso, via Wikimedia commons

Nuragus (Nuragus di Cagliari DOC): Nuragus is a white grape variety that—despite its seeming obscurity—is the second most widely-planted white grape on the island of Sardinia (after Vermentino). Wines produced using Nurugus tend to be somewhat neutral in aroma and character; however, the best (low-yield) versions can be crisp in acidity, somewhat bitter, and redolent of green apples and almonds. The Nuragus grape is used—blended with other white grapes—in up to 15 different IGP wines of Sardinia, and is often used in the production of vermouth.  The Nuragus di Cagliari DOC allows for the production of dry and sweet wines (based on a minimum of 85% Nuragus) in both still and sparkling version.

Nasco (Nasco di Cagliari DOC): Nasco, a white grape, is rumored to have been introduced to Sardinia via Spain (although there is as yet no solid evidence to confirm this). History tells us that the grape was once widely planted across the island, but the variety did not fare well post-phylloxera. These days,  Nasco is grown in very small amounts in and around Cagliari—reported plantings total just 423 acres/171 ha—and it is possible that it is not planted anywhere besides Sardinia.  The Nasco di Cagliari DOC allows for the production of dry wines, sweet wines, and fortified wines (which may be either dry or sweet). The grape—and its wines—are known for a musky aroma, as well as aromas and flavors of green herbs, dried flowers, honey, sweet spices, and apricots.

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Girò (Girò di Cagliari DOC): Girò is a cherry-scented red grape variety, also believed to have been introduced to Sardinia via Spain. It was widely grown throughout the island before phylloxera, but now is somewhat limited to the area around Cagliari. At last count, Sardinia had just over 1,300 acres (525 ha) of vines planted to Girò. The grape thrives in hot, dry climates—and such conditions will lead to high concentrations of sugar, but sometimes leads to low acidity.

The Girò di Cagliari DOC allows for the production of still (non-sparkling) red wines, both dry and sweet. Many Girò di Cagliari DOC wines are fortified, and post-harvest drying of the grapes is sometimes used to produce passito-style wines as well.

References/for more information:

The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas… missjane@prodigy.net

About bubblyprof
Wine Writer and Educator...a 20-year journey from Bristol Hotels to Le Cordon Bleu Schools and the Society of Wine Educators

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