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Tucked away in the Trexenta Hills north of Cagliari, the capital of Sardinia, the Argiolas Winery isn't exactly at the crossroads of the world's wine trade. Add to that the fact that the region's greatest wines are made either from unfamiliar grapes (Vermentino, Bovale) or from semifamiliar grapes known by local aliases (Grenache is called Cannonau, and Carignane goes by Carignano) and Argiolas should be destined for obscurity. Instead, this winery has become a favorite of sommeliers around the globe and a mainstay of Italian wine lists and shops throughout the United States, in part because its bottles are such a good value (most range from $8 to $15). It also doesn't hurt that Argiolas's consultant is Giacomo Tachis, the famous Italian wine pioneer credited with crafting Super-Tuscans Sassicaia and Tignanello.

In its Costamolino bottling, Argiolas takes an innovative approach to Vermentino, a traditional grape. Historians believe Vermentino arrived with the Spanish, who ruled the island from the 14th to the 18th centuries. By harvesting the grapes in the cool mornings and fermenting the wine in stainless steel (not oak), Argiolas preserves a minerally, citrusy freshness. Valentina Argiolas, the granddaughter of 97-year-old family patriarch Antonio, puts it this way: "The Costamolino's perfumes are the same that one senses when near the sea, a mist of marine notes and Mediterranean herbs." These aromas pair well with the briny flavors and creamy texture of Valentina's braised sea bass and her clams with fregola, the pebble-shaped Sardinian toasted pasta.

—Richard Nalley

Published May 2004
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