CANNONAU, or Canonao is the name used on the Italian island of Sardinia (‘Sardegna’) for what is called Grenache Noir in France and Garnacha in Spain (and Granaccia and Tocai Rosso locally). Sardinia’s biggest production wine made with the variety is Cannonau di Sardegna DOC. ‘Cannonau is linked to Campania’s Guarnaccia and other vines called Granaccia elsewhere. The term Alicante is also used in Italy for vines and wines of the Granacha family,’ (Burton Anderson, 1990, p288). Some Sardinians claim Cannonau cuttings were taken to Spain when Sardegna was under Aragón rule, from 1297 until 1713. ‘The variety has lost ground since the mid 1990s, partly because as a bush vine it is low-yielding and expensive to cultivate. A high proportion of the grapes are grown on the east of the island,’ (Oxford Companion, 2006, p134).
ORIGINS / ‘The origins and provenance of the Cannonau variety are still not known with absolute certainty,’ writes Doug Wregg ‘but it is generally agreed that it appeared on Sardinia, having been brought from Spain, in the 14th century at the beginning of the period of Spanish domination of the island. Numerous experts argue that Cannonau corresponds from an ampelographical standpoint with the Canonazo of Seville and the Granaxa of Aragon. Cannonau found an ideal habitat on Sardinia and the local growers were so favourable to it that it soon spread to every part of the island. Eventually, it was being grown on about 20 per cent of the island surface planted in vines. Despite the considerable diffusion of the variety, the amount of Cannonau wine produced is rather limited because of the widespread practice of short-pruning as part of the alberello system of training the vines. That practice drastically curtails output, which in the provinces of Nuoro and Sassari averages about 30 to 40 quintals per hectare as opposed to the more than 100 quintals permitted under the production discipline with normal pruning. Gradually, however, the alberello system is being replaced by the espalier technique, which results in a wine with a lower level of alcohol, one that is perhaps less formidable but is clearly much more drinkable.’
VINEYARD AREA IN ITALY / 2000 About 6,300 ha/15,600 acres of Cannonau were recorded in the Italian vine census of 2000 (Oxford Companion 2006, p134). / 2010 5,422 ha (13,400 acres) (Oxford Companion 2015, p138).
WINE STYLE / Rosato From 90% Cannonau, 10% other permitted red varieties. Rosso Same blend as the rosato. Can reach 15% alcohol. Riserva must have matured for two years. Liquoroso Secco haa an alcohol level of 18% vol, the Liquoroso Dolce Naturale has 16% vol.
FOOD MATCH / Bitter chocolate is said to pair well with Cannonau.
Doug Wregg, Les Caves de Pyrène list (July 2011).
Ian D’Agata, Native Wine Grapes of Italy (University of California Press, 2014 p35, 45, 225-29.
The Oxford Companion to Wine 3rd edition ed. Jancis Robinson MW (Oxford University Press, 2006) p134
The Oxford Companion to Wine 4th edition ed. Jancis Robinson MW and Julia Harding MW (Oxford University Press, 2015), p138.