This year's Decanter World Wine Awards Regional Trophy for Fortified Southern Italy over £15 went to Contini, Riserva, Vernaccia di Oristano 1990 (18%)
- No other Golds in this category
Although sharing the same name, Vernaccia di Oristano – which became Sardinia’s first DOC wine in 1971 – is not the same grape as the Vernaccias of Tuscany or elsewhere. It takes its name from the Latin vernaculus, which means, native or domestic, hence it is a historic term for an indigenous grape, not a specific variety.
Founded in 1898 by Attilio Contini, this producer is now into its fourth generation of family stewardship. Despite these years of expertise, this Trophy-winner continues to be something of a mystery to the Continis, for neither they nor their winemakers know how many years’ ageing it will take before it is ready to be bottled and released.
The winemaking style is similar to that of Sherry. Once the best grapes from the oldest bunches have been gently pressed, they are transferred into traditional chestnut barrels which are three-quarters filled. Then they are left to age, with a layer of flor yeast developing over time, gradually thickening. When it reaches a certain weight and thickness, this layer of yeast gently sinks to the bottom of the barrel, naturally filtering the wine at the same.
This process can take decades to complete, and the barrels need to be placed in warm but well-ventilated cellars. It also reduces the alcohol level of the wine by half a degree each year, which is said to improves the wine’s aromatic complexity.
Written by Decanter