Sardinia lies 150 miles (240km) off the west coast of mainland Italy. Known as Sardegna to its natives, it has belonged to various empires and kingdoms over the centuries. This is reflected in its place names, architecture, languages and dialects, and most pertinently, it's unique collection of wine grapes.

Since the mid-18th Century, Sardinia has been one of Italy's five autonomous regions (the others being Sicily, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Trentino-Alto Adige and the Aosta Valley), but its separation from the mainland has led to a culture and identity somewhat removed from the Italian mainstream. This is reflected in the Sardinian relationship with wine. Wine is much less culturally and historically engrained there than in the mainland regions, and wine production and consumption on any scale has developed only in the past few centuries.

The portfolio of varietals planted in Sardinian vineyards bears little resemblance to those in any other Italian wine region. The closest mainland wine regions to Sardinia are Tuscany and Lazio, and yet the key varieties used in these two (Sangiovese, Montepulciano, Barbera, Trebbiano) are almost nowhere to be seen in the island's vineyards. Instead one finds varieties of French and Spanish origin, exemplified by Grenache (called Cannonau here), Carignan (and its distinct clonal variants Bovale di Spagna and Bovale Grande) and Cabernet Sauvignon.

The most "Italian" varieties here are Malvasia and Vermentino, but even Vermentino can only just be considered Italian, being more widely planted on Corsica and southern France – often under the name Rolle – than in its homeland, Liguria. Muscat Blanc (Moscato Bianco), ubiquitous all around the Mediterranean, further contributes to the pan-Mediterranean feel of Sardinian viniculture.

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