The stunning sandy white beaches of southwest Sardinia are where most visitors to the area spend their days, but rain during our stay forced us to seek alternative things to do – which is how we found ourselves on a private tour of the Cantina di Santadi, learning about Sardinian wines from winemaker Andres Garcia Blas.
Just a 15-minute drive from Teulada in the Sulcis area, the Cantina di Santadi is worth a visit if you’re a lover of the delicious wines of Sardinia, an island with a rich winemaking heritage. The Cantina di Santadi’s reds, especially those produced from its local Carignano grapes and its distinguished Terre Brune (90% Carignano and 10% Bovaleddu), are consistently included among Italy’s top wines. We think the winery’s whites, particularly its Vermentinos, are also pretty special.
Established in 1960, Santadi is what 32 year-old Spanish-born Andres calls a “social winery” or cooperative, with member grape growers from the surrounding area having a stake in the company.
“The villagers grow their grapes based on our advice and bring them here to test them,” Andres explains as he shows us where the grapes are brought during the September-October harvest, “We advise them on the quantity of grapes they need to produce, we tell them what vineyard to pick from, how much to pick, and when to pick them. If the grapes are not good enough, then we don’t buy them because we’re trying to encourage the growers to produce better quality grapes.”
The winery’s mission is to marry respect for Sardinia’s winemaking traditions, (viticulture has been in existence on the island since pre-Roman times), use of indigenous grapes and old vines, with an innovative spirit. While Andres is Santadi’s on-site winemaker (he’s been here just a year), much of the credit for the winery’s success so far has gone to its consultant, the legendary Giacomo Tachis, considered to be the father of ‘Super Tuscan’ wines.
Andres talks us through the process as we walk through the winery from the delivery of the grapes during harvest through to their vinification and skin maceration in stainless steel vats (for 15-16 days), their malolactic fermentation which continues until December, and their transfer to new French barrels or barriques (replaced every three years), where they age for 16-18 months.
“Unlike in Spain, where we filter the wine a lot more, here we don’t do so, so the wines have more flavour and are very natural,” Andres explains. It’s this lack of filtration, combined with the use of the French oak barriques, which produces wines notable for their intense aromas, complex structure, rich taste, and balance between fruit and wood.
You can taste and buy bottles from the winery’s cellar door, although to be honest, apart from the Terre Brune, we found the same wines for less at Teulada’s local supermarkets. When we visited on a Friday morning locals were arriving in droves with their empty plastic bottles, which they had filled with wine from a service station-like bowser for 1.10 euros a litre!
See the winery’s website for detailed directions and book your tour (only offered in the mornings from Monday to Saturday) as far in advance as you can. Having said that, if you experience the uncharacteristic rain that we did on our recent stay, winery staff will be flexible when they can be and are happy for you to call at the last minute to see if someone is available to show you around. Make sure you let them know what languages you understand. Andres speaks Spanish, Italian and basic English, although he doesn’t lead every tour – in keeping with the egalitarian spirit of Santadi, the staff rotate the task.