2022 Impromptu – Giuséppi Còssu, Cannonau di Sardegna DOC, Nepente di Oliena, Sardinia, Italy.
The hedonistically pure and youthful Impromptu Cannonau di Sardegna from budding winemaker Giuséppi Còssu with the help of Gostolai, a well respected local producer based in the Nepenti di Oliena appellation with access to sustainable old vine hillside grapes, is the second release of Impromptu, named after his love of jazz improvisation, following his micro test lot in 2019 and is an impressive effort. A jazz drummer, a native of Sardinia and now living on the central coast, Giuséppi has long history in wine both in his homeland where he was a sommelier and bistro owner that also helped his grandfather make homemade wines as a kid to being a Italian wine specialist from many importers over the years, who currently is finishing up his extension enology degree in winemaking at UC Davis. His itch to make wine in his native land led him to find vineyard sources close to where he grew up and to craft a wine in the old world traditions with Cannonau being his chosen grape and his 2022 is bright ruby in the glass, aromatic and wonderfully expressive on the palate with crushed red berries leading the way with some whole cluster pop, along with some stony elements and an array of spices without any traces of oak interference. I was instantly reminded of the Grenache (which is what Cannonau is) from the southern Rhône and close in style to Beaucastel’s Coudoulet and or wines from Cairanne or Rasteau, which is in my mind is pretty tasty stuff. Lush and clean on the palate, which full bodied, but with a youthful vitality and fresh detailing as to not feel heavy, giving supple array of raspberry, plum, candied cherry and strawberry compote along with sage, bay leaf, anise, a light hint of pepper and cinnamon accents. Interesting is that the origin of Cannonau’s name is because of a peculiar characteristic of the grape, which: can have a reluctance to release it color into the must. So to achieve its deep purple/ruby color, the ancient Sardinian winemakers stirred the must with a large wood cane that looked somewhat like a big wooden spoon, stopping when they had achieved the right hue. It is well documented that In the local dialect, this somewhat unique tool was called a cannonau, hence the name.

Giuséppi Còssu admires the natural wine movement, especially with what he has tasted from Beaujolais, like the wines of Dutraive and Foillard and some of the Loire Valley legends, but is without a fanatical dogma in his own wines, wanting to create wines of pleasure and place above all else. Though so far he’s been able to employ an ultra low sulfur regime and make non adjusted wines, that are also faithful to the traditions here. His passion for Cannonau is his main focus, working with a few small family vineyards, as noted, in the cooler higher elevation hillsides of the Nepente di Oliena, where bold flavors develop from mature head trained and dry farmed vines set on the sandy granite based soils that all allow for deep concentration and balance, as seen in Còssu’s 2022 vintage especially. Còssu believes, as do the latest science suggests, that Cannonau, which was originally thought to be of Spanish grape linage and that it had been brought to Sardinia in the 14th century, during Spain’s occupation of Sardinia, though recent studies have proven that it’s native to the island. Historic mention and carbon dating suggest it is a purely Sardinian variety from birth and it was from here that it spread to the Iberian Peninsula and then on to France, where it is home in and the main grape of Chateauneuf du Pape and the Southern Rhone Valley. Cannonau is also this, nuragic island’s most famous red grape variety and the pride of Sardinia’s inhabitants and in this case a proud ex-pat. Cannonau, as mentioned, is called Grenache in France and as Garnacha, Garnatxa, Garnacho (Rioja) and sometimes even Alicante in Spain and in parts of Italy, and has found a home in the new world and been in Australia and California since the mid to late 1800s, though it truly, as Còssu will tell you, expresses the soul of Sardinia. This vintage saw whole bunches, a foot trod crush, native yeast fermentation and hand punch downs durning maceration in ancient wood vats before being pressed to neutral, very old, French barriques for close to 9 months, which is as close to his ideal as it gets, making Giusèppi’s 2022 Cannonau transparent and vividly terroir driven. The 2019 version, now pretty all drunk, except for a few bottles, which I was lucky to try on a few occasions, is gaining tertiary, earthy and savory elements, while this soon to be released 2022*, only 2 barrels made, is all about joyous Cannonau (Grenache) fruit and a sly attractive youthful confidence. *Pre-Release Sample
($59 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

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