Sardinia is a wonderful island, and hopefully without offending anyone, neither Sardi nor continental Italians, one might say that Sardinia is something on its own.
The long history of influences from the various conquerors, in the condition of relative isolation that Sardinia has lived in since Italy was formed, has caused the clock of history to tick at a different pace than elsewhere in Italy, so that the old traditions from the past centuries are still alive.
On the wine front today you will find a Spanish, or rather Aragonese influence, as the most planted grape variety on the island, Cannonau, is the same grape as the Spanish Garnacha (and thus also the French Grenache). There are several DOCs with Cannonau as the main grape, and Sardinia has huge potential with this variety that appeals to a wide international audience. However, maybe because of its isolation and its consequent limited exports, most Sardinian producers have focused on making wine in a traditional oak-aged style that appeals to locals. This is understandable, seen that the main part of production is sold on the island, but Sardinia has the grape potential to match the commercial success that Grenache from Rhone has developed during the last twenty years.
The grape variety Carignano, which has its own DOC, Carignano the Sulcis, also comes from Spain (sp. Cariñena, fr. Carignan) and is undergoing a period of revival, as we see in Spain and France as well as Italy.
Another expression of Spanish influence is the sherry-like DOC, Vernaccia di Oristano. Vernaccia is the name of the grape, but it has nothing to do with the more famous Vernaccia di San Gimignano from Tuscany, which is a plain, dry white wine. Vernaccia di Oristano is available in different versions, some of which are aged under the “flor” like a Fino sherry, while others go through a deliberate oxidation, like a Oloroso sherry. These wines occupy a unique niche in the Italian wine universe, and they are rarely seen outside the island. That goes for most of the Sardinian wines.
Maybe this is the reason why the Italian authorities in 1996 pulled a rabbit out of the hat and promoted Vermentino di Gallura to the top level of the Italian wine regulation: DOCG. This created a focus on this white grape variety which is found in several wine regions along the Mediterranean, not only in Italy but also in France. However, not even a DOCG recognition has been able to ensure Vermentino di Gallura’s status as a flagship for Sardinian wine.