Cantina Mesa – Fine Sardinian Wines
Mesa, meaning table in Sardinian, symbolizes the heart of Cantina Mesa winery – “nourishment, a meal among friends, maternal love, simplicity and fragrant” aromas. Founded with deep affection for the island, the Cantina Mesa team strives to marry the terroir’s gifts with an expression of culture to represent the beauty and wealth of its home.
The brainchild of Gavino Sanna, a prominent Italian advertising professional, meticulous attention to every aspect of this winery is evident from vineyard to glass. His mission of creating something extraordinary with Cantina Mesa has clearly been achieved. All I talk to, Sardinian locals and international wine professionals, hold the estate in high regard. We can’t wait to see why.
Cantina Mesa Wines Sardinia
Each glass of wine tells the story of the generosity of the terroir. If you pay attention, you’ll find its abundance and complexity, culture and spirit in every glass says brand ambassador Luca Fontana. He tells of the pronounced focus they place on the vineyards. Much care is given to the vines and soil. Grown organically, he says the best wine all starts in the field.
Located in the Sant’Anna Arresi, the slopes of the valley where the vines are planted are sheltered from northwesterly winds and embraced by the Mediterranean Sea. The vineyards have an outlook over the small villages of the Sulcis zone and further out to the headland of Porto Pino. Appropriately named for its rare pines, the promontory is covered with forest sided by a magnificent bay. A rugged four-kilometre beach sits aside expansive sand dunes and lagoons where pink flamingos dine on algae and brine shrimp giving them their distinctive hue.
On the other side, cliffs are blanketed with small evergreen shrubs, cistus rock roses, and rosemary. Both are known for their hardiness and ability to thrive in drought, frost, wind and heat. Considerable stretches of Neptune grass demonstrate the health of the surroundings, amongst many merits, preventing erosion and the dunes washing out to the sea.
Cantina Mesa’s vineyards extend over 78 hectares, of which 73 are estate-owned. Vines are trained using various methods according to local conditions, including Cordon Spur, Guyot and one of the oldest training systems, alberello. The latter is common in the south of Italy in places such as Apulia, Sicily and Sardinia. A low-yielding and labour-intensive low-training system, the bush vines are grown free-standing producing high-quality mature grapes. We see this system in their prized Carignano vines, for which the winery gets much acclaim – some even say the best in Sardinia.
Reflecting the neighbouring water bodies, Cantina Mesa mirrors the white rocky cliffs nearby. Grounded at the top of the hill, its solid milk-washed structure contrasts the surrounding greenery, proud yet unobtrusive in its presence.
It takes a moment, but we soon realize that the imposing doorway is repeated on the labels of Cantina Mesa wine. Just as the entrance gives way to contemporary contents of grapes, wine and process, so does every bottle offer insight into the culminating results of production.
Hand-picked, the grapes are destemmed on the top floor of the winery and left to ferment directly in the vats below. Later they’re transferred to the cellar, maturing in wood and concrete. The maturation, several metres below the ground, is said to be one of the keys to enriching the product.
Cantina Mesa produces four lines of wine – Desiderio, Sogno, Incanto and Primo. Their principal production is Vermentino and Carignano with some Cannonau (grenache) and a little bit of Syrah too.
The white, Vermentino, is a pale-skinned grape common to the island. Generally, it offers scents of citrus, white flowers and herbs with a full body, great with seafood and summer barbecues. Carignano, gifted with warmer conditions, produces riper fruit and more supple tannins than their French cousins. The dark black grape gives the wine a deep, rich hue and balances tannins with acidity.
Luca shares that Giunco (Vermentino) and the Buio (Carignano) are the legs of the winery. The goal with both of these wines is to make something affordable but of high quality. He likens them to a Volkswagen Golf – the best-selling European car because it’s reliable and value-for-money. With this philosophy, the production of Buio has gone from 60k bottles annually to 230k! Iconic and beloved throughout Italy, they’re clearly onto something.
Luca takes us through a tasting of several of Cantina Mesa’s most significant wines.
Giunco, Vermentino di Sardegna DOC
As mentioned, Giunco is at the heart of the winery, and we’re immediately enamoured. It’s gorgeous as an aperitif or with food. I imagine summer barbecues and hours spent with friends in the garden sipping and enjoying. It’s a wine I could happily drink all afternoon (you know my fondness for daytime drinking). It’s bright straw in colour, with some lemon on the nose, maybe white peach and lychee, delicate Mediterranean shrub notes and a sprinkle of saltiness. In the mouth, it’s lively and fresh, perfect as a quaffer and also ideal for fish and creamy cheeses.
Opale, Vermentino di Sardegna DOC
Opale, named for its ability to change in the mouth just as an opal changes colour in the light, is a more serious wine. More tannins come from skin maceration enabling the wine to age a little longer than the Giunco, evolving over time to lose the fruitiness and increase in herbaceousness. The hue transforms ever so slightly, expressing golden tones amongst the straw yellow. More tropical notes are found in the nose, and salt from the Mediterranean Sea breeze keeps it lingering on the palate. Pair the Opale with full-flavoured pasta or rice recipes, grilled, seasoned fish or medium-ripe cheeses.
Galesa, Vermentino di Sardegna DOC
The names of the founder Gavino Sanna and his wife Lella Sanna come together to name the small production, Galesa. Its production is similar to the beginning of red wine with five days of contact with the skin, cold temperature fermentation, and the ferment finished in French barrels. The wood aging is muted, adding complexity without covering the natural beauty of the Vermentino, enhanced by the salty sea air. Just as the love between the Sannas has endured time, this too is a wine made to last. The most momentous of the three, pair the Galesa with elegant but more complex flavours such as guinea fowl, artichokes and sardines.
Many oenophiles claim the best Carignano in the world comes from Sulcis, and Cantina Mesa gets repeated mentions when I research Sardinia’s top picks. The soil and climate are ideally suited to the vines. Sandy soils sloping down to the sea encourage the vines to sink deep roots. Salt air, the mistral wind, limited rain and lots of sunshine augment the wine’s unique aromas. Again, with Luca, we try a selection of three.
Buio, Carignano del Sulcis DOC 2020
The other leg of the winery, Buio, is 100% Carignano. Buio means darkness in Italian, naming this wine after the deep hue the Cantina Mesa team made with their first sample. Considering the grape, it’s relatively light in the glass and can even be chilled in summer. Juicy red fruits, Mediterranean herbs and a thread of pepper come to the nose. While the palate feels a full body, balance, defined but smooth tannins, and is very pleasant. Tuna, pork and pasta with meat sauces would make good food mates.
Buio Buio, Carignano del Sulcis DOC 2019
Buio Buio, dark dark, named for its colour and place of maturation, is the winery’s riserva. The wine is partly wood-aged in second or third vintage tonneaux or barriques for 12 months and partly steel-aged. It’s thick ruby red in the glass and rich in aromatics. The fresh red fruits continue, but more floral notes open up to balsamic and more spice. Fulfilling and enjoyable, silky tannins and complexity lead to a long finish of berries and herbs. This is a winter wine, perfect with goat and wild boar.
Gavino, Carignano del Sulcis DOC 2017
Carignano increases in intensity and alcohol content with the Gavino. Named after the winery’s founder, it signifies something special in the selection. After it’s drawn from the steel fermentation vats the whole wine is racked into 500-litre tonneaux and left to mature for 18 months. The bouquet concentrates, refining the previous fruits, balsamic and spice. It quickly spreads, filling my entire mouth at the same time feeling light and silky. Then it becomes more serious, showing softness, warmth, freshness, and elegance. Refined tannins lead to a persistent conclusion. Roasted meats and aged cheeses make solid partners.
Rosa Grande, Rosato Carignano del Sulcis DOC
If you like the idea of the Carignano grape but are looking for something lighter in style, try Cantina Mesa’s Rosa Grande. It’s a gorgeous shade of salmon pink with plenty of berries and floral notes on the nose. Friendly and versatile, with refreshing balance, it’s a wonderful summer drink with a meal. Try it with seafood, spicy appetisers and pasta dishes with fish or chicken.
Cantina Mesa Wine Bottles
Before we conclude, do observe the distinctive plump shape swelling out from the neck of the bottles. The form was inspired by the silhouette of Sardinian women in their traditional costume, su mucadore, a black shawl draped around the shoulders. This reflects the winery’s deep roots in the story of Sardinia, one we find interwoven through every aspect from production to glass. Also, consider the subtle focus on sustainability. It’s not shouted from the rooftops as a marketing tool but rather purposely part of all that they do. Corks, for example, are made from sugarcane – fully recyclable and biodegradable, offering quality and sustainable closure.
Cantina Mesa wines can be found in Malaysia online at albertwines2u, as well as some of the country’s most acclaimed restaurants such as Gordon Ramsay, Natalina Kitchen, Luca, and Nero Nero.
Reasons to drink Cantina Mesa: beautiful production of Vermentino and Carignano; value-for-money Giunco and Buio, so pleasant they can be enjoyed for hours and continue to be enjoyable.
Cantina Mesa Srl – Società Agricola
Località Su Baroni, 09010 Sant’Anna Arresi
+39 0781 965057