2019 Cantina Lilliu, Syrah, Prexu, Rosso IGT, Isola dei Nuraghi, Sardinina, Italy.
Cantina Lilliu, run by Pietro Lilliu, is a small family winery based in Marmilla, an area that isn’t widely known for wine, about 35 minutes north of Cagliari and is in the middle of the island without any much if any Mediterranean influence, but Pietro is making some beautiful wines from his naturally farmed tiny estate, including this super rare 100% Syrah Prexu bottling. While known locally for his distinctive offerings and mainly his work with native varietals, like his Cannonau and his blended red wine, not all the common here on Sardinia, this Syrah in Progress, as he calls it, delivers a lush and supple full bodied palate of dark wild berries, plum, black cherry and fig fruits, as well as mocha, anise, lilacs, delicate peppery spices, dusty stones, cola and cedar accents. The vinous mouth feel and the length are quite impressive and the ripe sweet tannin here make for a crowd pleasing red wine that really begs for a robust and meaty dish to thrive. Time in the glass allows this dark garnet and ruby edged Syrah “Prexu” to reveal more depth and savory complexity, but without any classic Northern Rhone (Cornas) edgy stemmy or feral funk, this wine is well rounded and smoothly polished from start to finish, more like a new world version. The terroir is hilly and with sandy granite based soils mainly, which does suit Syrah very well and there is lots of sunny ripeness in the wines, which are crafted with a minimalistic winemaking approach to capture the essence of place.

Pietro Lilliu, a talented young vigneron, believes firmly in organic and holistic winegrowing, says that being in sync with nature and creating an ecosystem of different trees and plants has allowed him to carve out his own slice of paradise in Sardegna’s unforgiving terrain, according to his importer. His two hectare vineyard, green and alive, stands out in an arid and barren landscape with the vines digging deep to get life giving moisture. Lilliu’s wines are mainly done indigenous yeast fermentation in tank with the Syrah seeing uniquely close to 16 months in bigger French oak barrels, while most only see stainless steel aging to preserve freshness and purity. All of the grapes are harvested by hand, most all de-stemmed, and the wines typically, according to the winery, will spend no more than 10 days in contact with the skins at low temperatures as not to extract too much tannin, which allows this Syrah to be so enjoyable in its youthful stage. Pietro also does some very interesting whites, which I hope to someday get a chance to try, especially his 36 hour skin contact Malvasia and his non malo-lactic Cannonau in Bianco (white wine made from the red grapes) that looks intriguing. The mentioned red blend here, called Chida is made from Cannonau (Grenache) 60%, Bovale (a rare native grape) 30% and 10% Syrah, which is not common here on Sardinia, but which shows promise, as seen in this Prexu. These wines are extremely hard to get in the states, and I’m grateful to my Sardinian friend Giussepi Cossu, who brought this one home with him after his last visit to his homeland, but I recommend keeping an eye out for them!
($35 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

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