The Wines of Mamoiada, Sardinia: Where Cannonau Found its Unique Identity

Cannonau is one of the principal grape varieties planted in the island of Sardinia. It is a late-ripening variety that is best suited for the climate of the island where it is predominantly hot and dry. The wine produced from this grape can be blended with other varieties or monovarietal, which most producers prefer. Cannonau is characterized by its full body with deep ruby red color, flavors of red fruit berries specifically strawberries and raspberries, delicate notes of flowers and spices, most especially pepper, medium acidity and tannins.

The wine production of Sardinia is widespread in the island but there is small area in the central part that is seeing a growth of interest and production among its 2,500 inhabitants, the case of which pertains to the excellent quality of their wines that are lauded by some wine experts. Mamoiada is a small town in central Sardinia in the province of Nuoro, in Barbagia. Although viticulture has been practiced for centuries, it was only at the start of the millennium when the wine producers started to bottle their wines. 

Mamoiada is highly suited for viticulture for its altitude between 600 to 850 meters above sea level which is subjected to strong temperature variations between day and night, where the soils are uniformly granitic with a loose structure, slightly acidic and rich in potassium. The hilly territory has about 350 hectares of vineyards around the town, alternating with woods which creates biodiversity. The cultivated vines is dominantly Cannonau at around 95%, and the other 5% with new plantings of Granazza, an authochtonous white grape variety that is receiving renewed interest in valorization. Some vineyards have fifty to a hundred year-old Cannonau vines maintained with the traditional training system of alberello basso and still, in some old plots, the tillage of the land is done with the ox-drawn plows. However, in the newer large vineyards, tractors are used but in both cases, most of the finishing work is done manually. In general, the tillage techniques used are organic and fall within a vision of sustainable agriculture. 

Mamoiada has a strong link to tradition and territory. In fact, in its viticultural history, it had 65 hectares of vineyards in 1855 which multiplied to 420 hectares in the 1950s which led to the birth of the social cooperative which imposed a coercive method in wine making on a much larger scale. However, having a diverse mentality and idea of the quality of wine in production, the wine producers did not feel represented by their cooperative’s idea of wine which led to its decline and closing in 1980. The result was a noticeable decrease in the vineyards to 200 hectares. For another twenty years, the producers in Mamoiada only produced homemade bulk wine which further cemented the community’s bond with the local wine. Then at the start of the year 2000, small family cellars have begun to put the Mamoiada wine back into the bottle and in general, even in this phase, the way of making wine has not been subjected to particular external influences, spontaneous fermentations have continued with the use of small quantities of sulphites, and these wines continue to be characterized by a marked territoriality and authenticity.

Winemaking is clearly important in Mamoiada because for such a small town, at present, there are 200 family cellars that are active producing wine for their own consumption, 33 which regularly bottle, for a total of 400,000 bottles a year. There is a lingering excitement and inclination to learn more among the new generation of Mamoiada producers which lead them to wines that bottle their culture and territory, imprinted with their own personality. Nature has given them a lot and it is at this time that they have set themselves up for the right path of wine production.

Mamoja, The Association of the Mamoiada Producers

Following a determined path, the wine producers of Mamoiada created an association to represent their united voice. Mamojà is an association born in 2015 composed of wine producers of Mamoiada with a total of 70 members. The collective aim is to enhance and protect the territory of Mamoiada through the wines. Importantly, it also focuses to make give awareness of the great potential of the territory where Cannonau takes a unique identity. The president of Mamoja the young Giovanni Ladu, producer of Cantina Ladu.

Tasting of the Wines at Mamoja Vives

The denominations that currently fall within the territory of Mamoiada are: Cannonau di Sardegna DOC, Isola dei Nuraghi IGT (both can be used throughout the territory of Sardinia); Barbagia IGT (falls in 15 municipalities of the province of Nuoro); and Provincia di Nuoro IGT (which can be used in the province of Nuoro, Ogliastra, Cagliari, Oristano).

The Cannonau produced in Mamoiada are sumptuous reds marked with freshness, straightforwardness with its varietal fruity and floral aromas, sometimes with Mediterranean touches, tamed tannins, complexity and elegance, indeed generally pleasurable in its drinkability, especially the new vintages of 2020 while the evolution and the style of the previous ones depict darker tones of fruits. The rosé wines instead are persuasively vibrant with the pronounced freshness, sapidity, red berries, flint and citrus notes and a palate that seals the aromas, a definite proclamation of the salmon pink-tinged wines that should be enjoyed on everyone’s table. 

Granazza is a rare white grape variety that has almost been lost if not for the production of the Sedilesu family. Traditionally, in Barbagia, it was produced as vinu de emmi-nas (women’s wine) or vinu de pride (priest’s wine) that was consumed during the mass. This is the secondary variety cultivated in Mamoiada which some producers have taken into interpreting them in convential whites or macerated in various lengths of time with excellent results, from 5 days of Cantina Giuseppe Sedilesu until 70 days in the case of Cantina Sannas.

Associazione Culturale Mamojà

Address: Via Vittorio Emanuele II, 08024 Mamoiada (NU), Italy