Can the sarcasm and give Sardinia its due

Six thousand years before Christ, a large island in the middle of the Mediterranean was settled by people who had sailed there from the Italian mainland.

Although unified by a common language, they divided into tribes that warred with each other on occasion.

By 1500 B.C., their masonry skills were such that they built large fortresses for protection and smaller lookout fortresses on hilltops, both of which were called nuraghi.

Today, 7,000 such surviving structures dot the landscape, echoes of a time when the world was built of sticks of stones and both could and would be used to end territorial disputes.

Although the "nuragic" people were good at building walls and towers out of stone, they lived off of the sea and remained sailors at heart.

They were conquered by the Phoenicians, then the Romans. The Spanish ruled them for 400 years, losing them in the War of Spanish Succession to Austria. At one point, they were returned briefly to Spain, before being handed over to the House of Savoy.

By 1794, the native islanders had had enough of tyranny, feudalism and "leadership" by a confederacy of dunces. Their scornful derision and mocking disdain for those who had occupied their land gave rise to the term "sardonic."

The island, of course, is Sardinia.

Did you know that the Kings of Sardinia led the charge for a unified Italy? Almost 8,000 years and an island apart, and they never forgot their roots.

Of course, the Italian Wars of Independence were required to achieve the goal intended, but Italy was united as a kingdom in 1861.

Their vinous claim to fame is Cannonau, a red wine made from the grenache grape. The Sardinians will tell you the grape is native to their land and that the Spanish took it to Spain. The Spanish will tell you that the grape is native to their soil and that they introduced the grape to Sardinia. One nationality is telling the truth; the other is spouting a whale of a tale.

Regardless, Sardinian Cannonau is as unique as the land that crafts it. Most grenache is big on bright, ripe, strawberry fruit and tons of heady alcohol.

Sardinian Cannonau gives an earthier representation of grenache. The fruit is sun-dried strawberry and there is a wild bit of briar and bramble tossed in there with the barest whiff of road tar.

A good one to try is Sella and Mosca Cannonau ($15). It is not overtly fruity; instead, it hints of sun-baked tarry terra-cotta. It is full-flavored without being full-bodied or heavy and is an absolute crowd-pleaser.

You should definitely vote for this wine while watching all of the U.S. political debates. As each presidential hopeful makes more outrageous and grandiose promises than the last, you can sip away with sardonic pleasure. In fact, the wine is so good, you might even be inspired to start a revolution.

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