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Sardinia’s Cantina Santa Maria La Palma Wine Cooperative: Merging Tradition and Innovation

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In 1959, a group of growers in Sardinia decided to come together to form Cantina Santa Maria La Palma, a cooperative that comprises 300 growers on 700 hectares, and holds the distinction of producing the Aragosta Vermentino di Sardenga D.O.C., 2015, Italy’s best selling Vermentino (some 2 million bottles are sold each year) and on the red side, the La Bombarde Cannonau di Sardegna D.O.C. 2014, Italy’s biggest selling Cannonau.

The cooperative devotes 320 hectares of land to the cultivation of Vermentino, Sardinia’s principal white grape. Vermentino is versatile, and the cooperative uses the varietal to make both sparkling and still wines. Vermentino is also the base grape for the Aragosta. 106 hectares go towards the production of Cannonau while Cagnulari, Chardonnay and other grapes are grown on the remaining 274 hectares.

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Cantina Santa Maria La Palma is located in Alghero and its proximity to the coast allows it to benefit from the breezes coming off the Mediterranean Sea. The clay and limestone rich soils in this area are ideal for wine production. The cooperative blends tradition with innovation and a respect for the environment. They have developed 12 clones of Vermentino and 6 clones of Cannonau in an effort to explore the potential of each grape and have debuted a sparkling Vermentino that has been aged at 40 meters underwater. The cooperative also practices organic farming whenever possible.

Cantina Santa Maria La Palma brought their best sellers to Sfoglia restaurant on the Upper East Side and the rustic and casually elegant Italian venue and well executed fare made a fine complement to the cooperative’s selection of whites and reds.

 

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An Akenta “Millesimato” Spumante Extra Dry N.V. consisting of 100 percent Vermentino and produced using the Charmat method (the same method used to make Prosecco), paired nicely with a crispy rock shrimp, with chickpeas and chives in a harissa aioli. The balanced sweetness, preserved and ripe citrus and tropical fruit, and subtle nuttiness of the sparkling Vermentino, worked well with the concentrated and rich flavors of the fried breaded shrimp.

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An Aragosta Vermentino di Sardegna, D.O.C. 2015 consisting of 100 percent Vermentino with delicate citrus fruit flavors and a refreshing minerality worked with both a creamy and light burrata with apples, kale, caramelized onions and walnuts and a sauteed clams with spicy Italian sausage, fennel and crostini. The acidity and minerality in this Vermentino enhanced the citrus and earthy flavors of the burrata course while softening the concentrated savory and slightly spicy elements in the clam dish.

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The red fruit and berry driven La Bombarde Cannonau di Sardegna, D.O.C. 2014 comprised of 100 percent Cannonau presented a wonderful complement to a tagliatelle tossed with lobster, Calibrian chili, peppers, garlic and basil. The lively fruit flavors of this Cannonau blended harmoniously with the slight buttery sweetness of the lobster while balancing the spicy accents in the pasta.

 

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The deep and ripe and preserved berry and cherry flavors and lingering finish that characterized the Cannonau di Sardegna, D.O.C. 2013 comprised of 100 percent Cannonau was a great pairing choice for a hearty lamb osso buco with rutabaga mash and aleppo served with a side of roasted maple glazed Brussels sprouts, smoked mozzarella and crispy speck. This Cannonau had the considerable but balanced juiciness and extended finish necessary to complement the somewhat pungent as well as earthy flavors of this course. A dessert of warm and satisfying bread pudding with currants, caramel and rum provided a sweet ending to an afternoon tour of Sardinian wine pairing possibilities.

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