2008 Shardana Valli di Porto Pino
Expert Rating
RP 92 points
(Read the full review below)
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Valli di Porto Pino A 92pt Boat Ride to Sardinia

Years ago, Carignan was one of the most widely planted varieties in Europe. From its 20th century peak, however, Carignan planting in France has dropped by a third in recent decades.

The initial attraction of Carignan was its propensity for high yields. In the early 1900s, every grape grower in southern France harvested his grapes, and then made a beeline for the local cooperative. Growers were paid a pittance per ton. Hefty yields were a requirement if farmers were to keep food on the table — and Carignan fit the bill.

But as the decades passed, some of those early Carignan vineyards — particularly those planted on sandy soils — lived on gracefully as other varieties fell victim to disease. Yields shrunk naturally. Natural concentration spiked. While young-vine Carignan is light and simple, the variety's century-old vines now provide for some of the most astounding wines in the world: deep, dark plush reds that marry Châteauneuf-like intensity with almost Burgundian vibrancy and minerality.

On the windswept hills of the Roussillon, Stéphane and Marjorie Galet would craft an astounding micro-cuvée from vines planted on sand and schist 110 years ago. The Roc des Anges Carignan 1903 has captured the imagination of 3-star sommeliers from Paris to Avignon.

More famously, on the labyrinthine terraces of Spain's coastline, an hour north of Barcelona, a handful of inspired winegrowers craft ancient-vine Carignans that rank among the country's most sought-after collectibles. The Priorats of Clos Erasmus, Clos Mogador, and Alvaro Palacios' L'Ermita have garnered 98-100 point scores from Robert Parker, Jr., fetching $125-$700/bottle on the auction market.

On Day 1 of Vinitaly last April, we were treated to a third old-vine Carignan that stole the show at Verona's annual fair. A week later, we sailed to Sardinia, to the extreme southwest coastline of the island, to lay eyes on the vineyard from which the sensational 2008 Shardana had been drawn.

On the remote Sulcis peninsula -- one of the hottest, driest areas on the island — we were led to a forgotten parcel, first planted 130 years ago. Head-trained vines with thick, gnarly trunks were strewn over bleached white sand, in full view of the emerald waters of the Mediterranean. As was the case in the Roussillon and Priorat, the sand saved this historic vineyard from Phylloxera — the aphid-like pest that ravaged all but Europe's sandy soil vineyards in late 1800s. While the daytime sun was blistering, the nights were cool, with a diurnal temperature shift of over 30 degrees. It's this unusual microclimate, and strange, almost eerie setting, that accounts for what many of the attendees of Vinitaly believe to be Italy's greatest bargain red of the year.

Brilliant dark ruby to the edge with flashy aromas of black cherry, raspberry, anise and sweet herbs. Deep, rich and lush on the attack, packed with crushed black fruits and violets, the 2008 Shardana is at once weighty, dense and brooding, all beautifully braced by the low pH vibrancy so common among the world's greatest 100+-year-old Carignans.

Parker's Wine Advocate came in at a solid 92 points, calling it "gorgeous … a deep, fleshy wine."

Tasting Notes

2008 Shardana Valli di Porto Pino
"Black cherries, licorice, smoke, sweet herbs and tar all meld together in the 2008 Shardana, a blend of 90% old-vine Carignano and 10% Syrah. A deep, fleshy wine, the 2008 impresses for its balance and sheer character. The style is dark, brooding and intense, largely because of the Syrah, but it all works, and beautifully. Gorgeous perfumed notes linger on the finish. Anticipated maturity: 2013-2018."
92 points -- Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate


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