Is there anything more satisfying than finding a perfect fish wine that is delicious, easy to drink and easy on the pocketbook? A wine that you can turn to again and again, that is widely available and that can actually go beyond fish and serve as a very good quaffing wine or one that will pair well with any number of dishes that call for a lighter white?
How about a red that serves the same basic function? Relatively light, fruity and spicy, but intense enough to hold up to most meats, roast chicken and vegetable dishes? It just so happens that the wines I’m thinking of are both from Italy and are from the same producer.
Now, one stop shopping has never been a goal of mine — either as a wine drinker or critic. More often than not, I might be turned on by one producer’s Chardonnay, for example, only to be less than thrilled by the same winery’s Pinot Noir.
That is why it is worth pointing out two very good wines from the highly regarded Sella & Mosca estate, which is on the island of Sardinia and, with 1,600 acres, is one of the largest vineyards in all of Italy.
The white is the 2003 “La Cala” Vermentino di Sardegna at $12. Vermentino is the grape, which is widely planted on the island and is one of those relatively obscure but first-rate varieties that should be far better known.
La Cala is lively, fragrant and light, dry but with good fruit that shows the slight sweetness of pear, a bit of the tartness of green apple, lemon and herbal notes, perhaps thyme. It was very easy to drink and was perfect with baked sole fillets. It also worked well the next night with sushi.
The red is the 2000 Cannonau di Sardegna Riserva, which is $13. Cannonau, if you’re not familiar with it, is the Italian name for the French Grenache and the Spanish Garnacha. The grape is also grown in California and Australia. For me, it is at its best when it shows an earthiness combined with intense berry fruit, which is the case here, despite the wine’s relatively light color. Sella & Mosca’s wine reminded me of a Spanish Rioja, if a bit more rustic.
The aromas project ripe red berry, including strawberry and raspberry jam. In the mouth, coffee, spices and herbs, including sage, emerge. There is definite evidence of oak aging (three years, it turns out), but the wood is well integrated, framing the wine rather than defining it.
Sardinia is a hot, dry, remote landscape that produces some unusual and original wines. These two from Sella & Mosca offer an excellent introduction.
Edward Deitch's wine column appears Thursdays. Write to him at @hotmail.com.