Cagnulari, grown not far from the coasts of Alghero

Author: Marco Negro

Along the way to discovering Italian autochthonous grape varieties with Sentieri di Vino, there is an inevitable deviation to be made through the European history of the fourteenth century. In that period, while the Kingdom of Aragon dominated Sardinia, that the Iberic ‘Bobal’ variety was brought to the island. The Bovale and Cagnulari grapes, now cultivated on the western part of the island, derive from the ancient ‘Bobal’.

It is correct to define Cagnulari as a native of Sardinia because it was grown in the northwest of the island for a very long time, during which it developed the marked characteristics that identify it. This grape variety offers an example of how Man – through his shifts of population and culture – acts as a generator of biodiversity.

Vineyards in Alghero where Cagnulari grows

As with the project Sentieri di Vino we intend to continue our training on Italian autochthonous grape varieties, we want to lead you with us to discover this grape variety.

Cagnulari grape
Courtesy Slow Food Editore

The cluster of Cagnulari is very compact and pyramidal, with two characteristic “wings”. Berries are usually small with a very dark, almost purple, “frosted” skin, like a plum. Cagnulari wine has an intense ruby color with violet reflections. The perfume is of red fruits and often highlights interesting spicy notes. The flavour is sapid, strong but pleasant and the tannins are fairly mild.

bottle of Cagnulari wine in Alghero

Cagnulari is widespread in the Sardinian province of Sassari; accounting for nearly 10% of the red grape. Traditionally, it is added to the most common Cannonau grape to produce an Igt red wine. The grapes of Cagnulari are also used to make Alghero Doc wines. Nonetheless, some producers are experimenting with interesting wines, made using only Cagnulari. It is a grape that is indispensable to add a touch of elegance to the red wines of this marvelous corner of Sardinia.Walking through our Sentieri di Vino, we think that the education needs a tasting to be really complete. We not only want to know this grape, so we tried an excellent wine based on pure Cagnulari with this Isola dei Nuraghi Igt from Poderi Parpinello winery. From our tasting notes: “…it is characterized by a ruby red color …it has the peculiar notes of berries, with spicy notes and balsamic accents. On the palate, it is warm, well-structured and with soft tannins The finish shows a clear sapidity, it is long and persistent”.

A visit to Alghero

Talking about Cagnulari grape is also an invitation to get to know this fascinating corner of Sardinia: the North-West. The origin of the modern town of Alghero is in the naval battles that in the fourth century saw the seafaring powers of Genoa and Spain (the branch of Aragon) opposed to each other. The Spanish Aragona family prevailed and, in 1354, the population of Genoese origin was replaced by Catalan colonists. Still today the dialect spoken in Alghero is very close to the most archaic Catalan idiom. Alghero is therefore called “Barceloneta“, that is, small Barcelona.

Even the architecture of the oldest buildings of the town of Alghero has undergone Catalan influence. This style is called “Catalan Gothic” and the two greatest examples are the Cathedral and Palazzo d’Albìs. The town has an imposing defensive system of walls overlooking the harbour: they were built by the Genoese who occupied Alghero from the 12th century. The walls have 8 defensive towers embedded in them; this protective system, in addition to 11 other watchtowers on the coast, helped protect the city from pirate attacks. The ramparts are no longer occupied by cannons and patrols of sixteenth-century soldiers, but by many colorful dehors of restaurants and bars.

in Alghero resturants on the bastioni walls

What to eat in Alghero? The cuisine of the Sardinian island is quite varied. Thanks to the fusion between Catalan culture and extraordinary raw materials (both from the sea and from the interland), some recipes can only be found here. Molluscs (mussels and clams) and prawns are the protagonists in the paella of Alghero (based on a very small pasta made from durum wheat semolina, called fregula).

Try the Catalan lobster, a tasty, fresh and summery dish, to be tasted at an outdoor table on the ramparts, overlooking the harbor. Pieces of lobster are seasoned with a vinaigrette of good local olive oil, vinegar, lemon and pepper. Then onion, celery and carrot are combined into the salad. Everything is then reassembled in the lobster carapace. To accompany this dish, we can choose Vermentino di Sardegna Doc “Ala Blanca“, again from the Poderi Parpinello winery. Other dishes to taste in Alghero are those of meat, which come from the nearby hinterland of Sassari and the seadas, a typical dessert made with soft cheese and honey.

typical paella algherese seafood and fregula

The beaches of the Alghero coast are characterized, as in most of Sardinia, by clear and crystalline waters. Shades tinge in all the possible tones of green and blue, depending on the nature of the backdrop and the time in which they are observed. The best beaches of Alghero are Punta Negra and Le Bombarde. In any case, many excursions can be made to look for coves and small bays: a ten-minute walk on the paths will be rewarded by a wonderful sea and seabed and often by the magical atmosphere of being the only ones on the beach! Do not miss the excursion to the promontory of Capo Caccia, defined by 3 colors: the intense blue of the deep sea, the white of the limestone cliffs and the green of the Mediterranean scrub.

How many discoveries following the narrative thread of a vine: the Cagnulari! One last treat to tell about this part of the Mediterranean coast: the backdrops in front of Alghero are very rich in the precious red coral, from which valuable jewels are obtained.

21st August 2020,

Marco Negro

Picture of Marco Negro
Marco Negro
Expert of communication of Italian wine. He has a knack for connecting people.
Picture of Marco Negro
Marco Negro
Expert of communication of Italian wine. He has a knack for connecting people.

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