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). Cannonau is Sardinia’s signature wine. The biggest production wine made with the variety there is Cannonau di Sardegna DOC. ‘A high proportion of the grapes are grown on the east of the island,’ (Oxford Companion, 2006, p134).

SPANISH ORIGINS…? | ‘The origins and provenance of the Cannonau variety are still not known with absolute certainty,’ writes Doug Wregg, saying that one theory is ‘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.….OR ITALIAN ORIGINS? | Some Sardinians claim the opposite to the above, that Cannonau cuttings were taken to Spain when Sardegna was under Aragónese rule, from 1297 until 1713. The latest research seems to support this theory. Sicily and Tuscany’s Alicante, Umbria’s Gamay Perugino, Veneto’s Tocai Rosso, and Liguria’s Granaccia (or Gruarnaccia) are all biotypes of Cannonau. Despite their identical genetics, they neither look nor behave in an identical way.  (Italian Wine Unplugged, 2017, p88). This contrasts with the (morphological and behavioural) similarity of Spanish Garnacha. 

TERROIR | Cannonau seems to prefer sandy soils with granite breakdowns (Italian Wine Unplugged, 2017, p88). 

VINEYARD AREA IN ITALY‘The variety has lost ground [eg. in the above-mentioned Cannonau di Sardegna DOC] since the mid 1990s, partly because as a bush vine it is low-yielding and expensive to cultivate,’ (Oxford Companion, 2006, p134). | 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). 

CANNONAU WINES | Sardinia Cannonau di Sardegna DOC. Umbria: Colli del Trasimeno DOC. Veneto: Colli Berici DOC (Barbarano sub-zone).

WINE STYLES | Colour Cannonau wines are pale to medium in colour, even when young, due to a lack of anthocyanins. Aromas Red berries, floral, herbal. Wines from Sardinia and Veneto are fruitier, and more intense compared to the Umbria version.

FOOD MATCH | Bitter chocolate is said to pair well with Cannonau.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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.

Italian Wine Unplugged (Positive Press, 2017), p88-9.

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.