I was chatting to a friend about Italian wines when my wife called over to me ‘don’t forget to mention those lovely Sardinian whites’. I agreed and duly passed on the recommendation for the island’s very drinkable and often good value Vermentino-based wines.
I must have still had Sardinia on my mind when I was choosing a wine to drink with dinner that night as I picked Isola’s Cannonau di Sardegna (Novel Wines, £13.99) out of our wine rack.
For those not familiar with the name ‘Cannonau’, it’s the islanders’ name for the grape more commonly known as Grenache – part of the blend in Côtes du Rhône and Châteauneuf du Pape or the ‘G’ in Australia’s GSMs. (It’s also called Garnacha in Rioja and generally in the Spanish-speaking world).
Whatever you call it, this one was a delicious, silky smooth unoaked medium-bodied red full of attractive black fruit flavours. I tasted damsons and plums together with some peppery spice and even hints of chocolate (which may have been a nudge to what was to follow). The finish was medium length and the tannins very soft and restrained. It worked really well with a game casserole made from a mixture of pheasant, partridge, venison and who knows what else from our local butcher.
But the wine had a surprise for me. As I often do, I left a little in my glass after dinner to sip throughout the evening. When it came to coffee time, my wife and I split a bar of bitter chocolate and I tried the wine again. I found the chocolate bringing out some lovely cherry fruit in the wine that I hadn’t noticed earlier. I know some reds do go well with dark chocolate (Argentinian Malbecs, for example) but I wasn’t expecting this pairing to be so successful.
Which just proves that food and wine matching is far from an exact science; some of the most unlikely combinations can sometimes deliver the most pleasant of surprises.