Gita Scolastica – Sardinia Pt. 1 of 4

While we can find in Italy, or in France or in other countries of Europe repeated models, which are made a little bit from the same vines and with the same oenological techniques, here we really have something very original. Here the viticulture has remained ancient.

Attilio Scienza

Episode 709 of the Italian Wine Podcast is the first of four very special #everybodyneedsabitofscienza‘s recorded in Sardinia with Stevie Kim during a Gita Scolastica. Stevie and Professor Attilio Scienza continue to talk about the planned programme for the trip, focusing on the Ecomuseum and precision viticulture. Listen to Episode 709 on the Italian Wine Podcast and, if you don’t happen to speak Italian, find the English translation below. And don’t miss the next episode next Friday!

Stevie: First of all, congratulations again, you’re the man of the year. You’re the chairman of the National Wine Committee, you’re – I don’t know.

Scienza: I don’t know, I don’t know either.

Stevie: I don’t know, Padre Pio!

Scienza: Padre Pio is… The Pilgrim Virgin Mary! (laughs)

Stevie:But, I never asked you. You, are you spiritual? Are you religious?

Scienza: Of course I’m religious.

Stevie: Yeah? Do you go to church?

Scienza: Every Sunday.

Stevie: Really?

Scienza: I swear.

Stevie: I didn’t know. Where are you going?

Scienza: In a church, in a Catholic church, not a Buddhist church eh.

Stevie: So, you think that…?

Scienza: I believe it yes. I went through many years of Catholic colleges and graduated from Cattolica University.

Stevie: Okay, all right.

Scienza: But that’s a choice, I could also go to a public university.

Stevie: eh, what about it?

Scienza: Instead I chose to go to a Catholic university, because I think that in addition to scientific values it is also necessary to give some moral content.

Stevie: Sure.

Scienza: I don’t see many in this world who can offer moral values.

Stevie: I get it.

Scienza: So, I think instead that the Church, with all the limits it has, a difficult history, it’s made by men naturally, can still give a thought, so particular. I took the four exams of Moral with great joy, because at the Cattolica there are two exams of Dogmatics and two exams of Moral. And I must say that I learned a great deal in these… Because Dogmatics is, at bottom, a theological summation of St Thomas and an approach to the esoteric, to divinity. So St. Thomas traces with humanism, all the principles of divinity expressed by the philosophy of Aristotle. Mah, I really liked this rational approach. My professor of Morals was a professor of Physics, who became a priest and faced all these…

Stevie: But isn’t that a little bit, conflicting? Physics, one who believes in physical science….

Scienza: No, that’s where the mistake ordinary people make.

Stevie: Yes, I am ordinary people, what do you think?

Scienza: Yes.

Stevie: I’m just like ordinary people.

Scienza: Exactly.

Stevie: So explain.

Scienza: The common people have, in my opinion, a formidable preconception that some religious principles cannot be explained through rationality, they think that religion is only emotionality, only a thing… And instead there is a whole true story behind religion. The gospel doesn’t tell fairy tales about Christ, the gospel tells the story, it’s what a physical person who existed did. Christ was not an invention, he really existed. So the presence of a man on earth who becomes God, is a substantial thing that you can explain with the principles even of physics.

Stevie: Anyway listen, I don’t want to talk about religion because I’m agnostic as you know…

Scienza: But I understand everyone and respect everyone. I’m tolerant.

Stevie: Okay, thank you, thank you Attilio.

Stevie: So, let’s talk about Sardinia.

Scienza: Ah yes.

Stevie: Because we are here in Sardinia. We are in “Sella & Mosca” because it was your great idea, to start here. So tell us a little bit about the School Trip, what we’re going to do with the kids.

Scienza: Yes, well…

Stevie: Contextualizing what kids need to learn.

Scienza: Sure. We are going to make this periplus, as they say, of Sardinia. Periplus is a Greek word that indicates an almost circular route. We’ll start from the western side of Sardinia, we’ll only do the coastline of Sardinia because it’s the one with the most vineyards, then we’ll go up from the eastern side. Yes, five days is not a lot of time, but we have to be satisfied.

Stevie: Well that’s something. You know in America, most people…we have Americans here, they only have two weeks’ holiday.

Scienza: Well, but… yeah, yeah, I get it.

Stevie: So, they took a week off to come here.

Scienza: And we have to honor this thing that they did.

Stevie: Yes, exactly

Scienza: They asked for time off and everything they spent has to be rewarded with what they see and learn.

Stevie: Yes, from what they learn.

Scienza: So, the itinerary has, I would say, very different objectives even if basically all in this great container of the vine and wine. But Sardinia and talking about the Sardinia of wine, is talking about a culture of 4-5 thousand years because it is one of the oldest areas of Italy from a geological point of view. It is the one that was born earlier than the rest of Italy because its soils are volcanic, the first ones are on average 800 million years old, so they are certainly the oldest soils. But also the frequentation made by navigators of the Mediterranean, makes this island an island that has had a very early viticulture. Certainly here it was the Phoenicians and the Carthaginians who gave an impulse. While in Italy it was the Greeks and the Etruscans, here there is no Greek or Etruscan evidence, it is a completely different matter. Here the influence came from the areas of the Levant and the Middle East, therefore Phoenicia, for whom Sardinia was a fundamental port to go to Spain. It was a crucial stop on the journey. In fact, many remains of containers and, so we can say, symbols of ancient and Sardinian viticulture, are in Spain. And also then the Carthaginian influence, because the proximity with North Africa was decisive. So just think of the remains of the cities in the south of the island, which are all of Carthaginian inspiration. Now, this certainly left very deep traces in the oenological culture of this island, which then underwent over time a series of encounters, we can say, with other populations. What is clear is that the Romans were never very successful here. While the Romans conquered Italy after the second Punic war, because it became…

Stevie: But why do you think that is?

Scienza: Because the local people were very strong, very aggressive and knew the territory well.

Stevie: Because it’s island too, isn’t it?

Scienza: But not so much because it’s an island. The Romans also arrived in England, they went all over the Mediterranean, so it’s not… they occupied Greece, many countries, Spain. The problem is that this is an island that did not allow outsiders to arrive easily. The local populations were quite aggressive and wanted to defend their integrity, their culture from this expansionist operation of the Romans. However, other populations arrived especially from Spain, the whole area where we are now is all of Catalan culture; therefore, the language is a Catalan language, and many varieties are of Catalan origin and also the wines, some wines were produced with this Catalan-Spanish culture. But the most interesting thing, in my opinion, about this territory is the originality. While we can find in Italy, or in France or in other countries of Europe repeated models, which are made a little bit from the same vines, are made with the same oenological techniques, here we really have something very original. Here this viticulture has remained ancient. We are at “Sella & Mosca” and it is certainly a modern winery, even recent in historical terms, but we are going to see in the southern parts of the island, these ungrafted grapevine saplings that are more than 100 years old, of Carignano, the techniques of vinification of Vernaccia di Oristano with these oxidative techniques that are practically no more except in the Swiss-French Jura and a little maybe still in Spain, in Andalusia, but I wanted to say, are these things that there are almost no more around that are a rarity, they are, as they say, fundamental historical memories and then the whole experience, let’s say, of the other part of the island made with Cannonau, Cannonau here is together with Vermentino that we will then go to taste on the last day, they are the two pillars of this viticulture. This viticulture has dozens of old varieties, many old varieties that unfortunately are almost no longer cultivated.

Stevie: So, I’d like to do to split this um podcast in two, so in the meantime tell us the route that we’re going to take over these five days okay? And then we’ll split and we’ll do, let’s cover the vines a little bit okay? Because it’s a lot of stuff so let’s…

Scienza: So, the first stop was at “Sella & Mosca”. We started from “Sella & Mosca”, a modern company, modern in the form of training, in the varieties that are grown, in the techniques of winemaking that, however, maintains a very strong link with the tradition because it basically produces Vermentino, Cannonau and this strange grape variety of Spanish or Catalan origin that is Malvasia of Roussillon.

Stevie: Torbato!

Scienza: Torbato yes, which is torbato, which is perhaps the only company that produces it in considerable quantities, perhaps a few others make a few bottles, and they also produce it well, making a model, let’s say, of dry wine and a model of still and sparkling wine. Well, we will leave “Sella & Mosca” tomorrow morning, after having done a tasting this afternoon, very interesting with all the vines and wines that are produced by this company that are many but are vinified very well respecting, as I said before, the canons of that tradition, they are not homologated wines, they are not wines that recall other wines in the world, they are very original, even though they have been produced using modern techniques. Tomorrow we will go to one of the most interesting areas from a cultural point of view, let’s say, Bosa. Bosa is a small town that has a history not only of wine but also of tanneries and was famous for counting hides. Yes…

Stevie: Oh, sheep? Or of…

Scienza: Of everything. They used to tan the cows of steers and cattle, because it’s on a river. This town is on a river that flows into the sea and it takes a lot of fresh water to be able to work the skins, so now there is nothing left but all the houses, all the tanneries very beautiful. It’s a beautiful landscape to see. Here is a territory that has from the geological point of view two matrices, a volcanic matrix, which is widespread on the island but here is special because they are trachytic materials. The trachyte are these materials and fuses that are cemented over time, the color is very clear, that is, very often confuse these trachytic materials with the limestone materials but they are volcanic tuffs. Here close to these trachytic matrices there are the flysch, we have a dialectical relationship with the flysch (laughs). There are these, these, these flysch.

Stevie: Which is also called um something else in Slovenia, what’s it called?

Scienza: Ponca

Stevie: Ponca is said in Friuli, but in Brda it said something else, I don’t remember anymore, yes, they say something else, anyway….

Scienza: However, these are terrigenous flysch that were formed by the sliding of these materials, both clayey and sandy, and it is interesting because there is this mixture of sedimentary and volcanic materials. Perhaps the most interesting thing, however, beyond the terroir aspects, is the grape variety. The vine is this Malvasia, which has many names, but it is the same vine throughout the Mediterranean because there is the same vine on the Lipari Islands, the same vine in Dubrovnik, the same vine in Bianco, the same vine in the Azores, the same vine in the Canary Islands. So, this vine has different names in very different places to make quite different wines.

Stevie: : But here it’s called Malvasia di Bosa.

Scienza: Of Bosa yes, or Sardegna too.

Stevie: Is it Malvasia di Sardegna?

Scienza: It’s also a synonym, Bosa or Sardinia, but it’s the same vine that’s all over the Mediterranean. The tradition in this area was to make Malvasias.

Stevie: But what’s his name in other places?

Scienza: Eh it’s called Dubrovnik, it’s called Bianco, it’s called Greco di Bianco but it’s a Malvasia.

Stevie: Greco di Bianco?

Scienza: Yes, but it’s Malvasia. They call it Greco but it’s the same Malvasia. Lipari, the Aeolian Islands, always Malvasia di Lipari.

Stevie: Malvasia di Lipari.

Scienza: It’s the same grape, but it has always different names…

Stevie: But you do realize that this is very confusing?

Scienza: But it’s not confusing, for me it is a very important testimony instead, of a great cultural circulation. This vine represented for a long time a guiding vine, like the Malvasia and the Vernaccia. What does a guide vine mean? A guide vine is a vine that is the result of large-scale commerce, not the outcome of local production, that is, Malvasia, for example, or the Malvasia that Venice commercialized, was made from many varieties, what counted was the name Malvasia, which was what gave value to the wine. In this case, we have only one grape variety from many places, but it maintains the name Malvasia with the name of where it is grown, so there is this identification of the terroir. It is not a generic name while Venice sold a generic Malvasia, the Malvasia of the Mediterranean, here, however, these Malvasia have maintained their origin. We know that they saw them as Lipari, they sold them as Dubrovnik, they sold them as Azores. This is very important, this means that there was a very strong local characterization also from a commercial point of view. In Cabosa we will taste two Malvasias. A Malvasia made as in the past with the technique of active output of flor wine that was the old Malvasia, but now it has a very small market and so, they prefer to make the modern Malvasia, that is normal vinification in reduction. Someone even makes a sparkling wine of Malvasia because the sea areas need in the summer to have fresh wines, sparkling wines, for aperitifs, for a light dinner. And is a wine culture almost in extinction. There are very few hectares left and we will perhaps see the last evidence of this viticulture made by a dozen or so companies, but no more. But they believe…

Stevie: In fact we’re going to see the Malvasia Consortium as well, right?

Scienza: Yes, yes, we will meet the president, president who will accompany us and he will give a presentation….

Stevie: Who is this Professor Enzo Biondo anyway?

Scienza: Then Prof. Biondo will talk a bit about the island’s wine culture and give everyone a book of his on Malvasia.

Stevie: Ah! About Malvasia di Bosa?

Scienza: About Malvasia di Bosa yes, he made a book about Malvasia di Bosa and he dedicated it to everyone, because he wanted everyone’s name.

Stevie: No! He is an old-fashioned man!

Scienza: Eh well he’s almost ninety years old (laughs)

Stevie: Finally, there’s someone older than you.

Scienza: And, he is also bigger than me (laughs)

Stevie: Ok I’ll stop you here, Attilio. Let’s say goodbye to our listeners in the meantime, cheers, Ciao ragazzi!

Scienza: Bye bye!

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