We stayed in southern Sardegna for a couple of days, based in the city of Cagliari. Eventhough it was quite a surprisingly large city, there were many things to visit & see. Cheryle & my cousin Mike had planned to take a walking tour to see the sights.
At dinner one night at a very hip restaurant the server recommended 2 wines to us for our meal, one of them was the Miniera Nero from Enrico Esu. He was the same vigneron recommended to us by Giovanni Montisci. (Yes, another instance where a true vigneron recommending another vigneron to us). PLUS, his wines were of the Carignano del Sulcis appellation! (I have been intrigued by this appellation in southwestern Sardegna for some time, because they still have own rooted vines. How many places in the winegrowing world still have own rooted vines?)
Giovanni Montisci had given me Enrico Esu’s cell number & I tried calling. It however became apparent he spoke no English. When we got back to the hotel, I asked the hotel manager to call on my behalf to see if I could get an appointment to see him the next day–again just hoping to see & walk his vineyard with him. Enrico said yes!
The next morning I went. (Cheryle & Mike stayed back to do an already confirmed & paid for walking tour & let me go anyway).
It was an hour & half drive away. As I drove, the contour of the countryside was mainly flat & the roads wide & easily navigable.
Enrico Esu was a pleasure to meet & hang out with. He is down to earth, charming & was very patient with me & our language challenges. He is also a true vigneron & I was truly honored & inspired to walk vineyards with him.
His estate vineyard was a 15 minute drive away. Again, I would never have found this site on my own as there are no signs or markings. The vineyard is just off a modest street of a perimeter housing area.
The vineyard is but 12 hectares–very sand dominated, with a coal bedrock 2 meters below the surface. His vines are own rooted (Franc de Pied)–40 to 60 years in age–95% Carignano, with small amounts of Monica, Cannonau, Carenisca & Bovale.
His winery is small. I was quite surprised at how small it really is. It used to be their family’s house, where his father was raised.
His total wine production typically is only between 400 & 500 cases a year! That’s it! I was sad to hear for 2018, he lost 70% of his crop due to rain & subsequent mold & mildew issues. I was astounded & sad at the HUGE amount of affected grapes still hanging on the vines as we walked about. I wonder how he can survive such a devastating loss.
In 2018, he produced a scant 200 liters of a rosato. It was still fermenting when I was there.
Nero (mostly 40 to 60 year old vine Carignano)–no stems, 15 months in stainless. The 2016 had a real wildness in its core–intriguing & rustic–grapey, provocative, structured & quite masculine & savory. I really liked it. I found his Carignano reds were so very different from the Cannonau based wines I had been tasting previously on our Sardegna trip. It seemed to have more acid & a more tannic grip.
Serucci (60 year old vine Carignano)–Serucci is the winery’s crown jewel. no stems. Fermented in plastic tubs & the 2015 spent 15 months in his old 225 liter Santadi used barrels. (2016 was only 12 months & 2017 was in 500 liter old, Capichera used barrels for 12 months). Typically only about 50 to 65 case production. We tasted the 2015 & it definitely had more mojo, structure, grip & I found a real artisan feel & soulfulness to it. I loved this wine! Yes, he is a true vigneron.
Visiting Esu reminded me of my early days when I first visited France’s Rhone Valley for the first time & visiting the likes of Verset, Clape & Gentaz, because of the small, true artisan, one man show operation & its grass roots approach both in the vineyard & the “winery”. Enrico’s wines are not as noble, but they are artisanal, personal & therefore touching & they certainly moved me. Thank you so much for the great, inspirational visit Enrico! Definitely one of the best wine stops for me on this 2 week trip. I will work hard to get some of these wines to Hawaii.
After the wine tour, Enrico & I went to eat at his childhood friend’s neighborhood restaurant right by the sea. The food really hit the spot–octopus, sea anemone, fish, tuna, mussels, pasta with bottarga–fresh, well cooked & classically Sardinian. If you are in the area, you should plan on a stop there.