At the central seat of the Mediterranean Sea is a sunny island Sardinia whose brilliant cloudless weather and bountiful soil team together to form a perfect environment.
And talking about Sardinias most famous wine is synonymous to talking about Nasco. Nasco is an aboriginal grape variety mainly grown around the province of Cagliari.
It is a pale green grape which is one of the oldest varieties of grapes grown in Sardinia and is responsible for producing Nasco wines.
This is generally amber, golden or yellow coloured wine which can be served as a good dessert wine, especially when served cold.
Often referred to as Nascu in Sardinian dialect, the name has been drawn from a Latin word Muscus, which is generally used to indicate the strong and obvious musky scent.
Referred to by many other names like Basco Bianco, Nasco Bianco, Nasco di Sardegna, Nasco Sardinskii, Ogu de Aranna and Resu, the Nasco wine is sweet and has a savoury perfume with an alcohol content between 17% to 19% by volume.
History of the Nasco Grape
Believed to have arrived in the island through the port of Karalee’s, its main distribution is centred on this port. Being the most ancient variety, these grapes were once among the most planted grapes throughout Sardinia.
However, the mid-19th century saw the onset of Great French Wine Blight, which led to the destruction of most of the Nasco vineyards.
These grape varieties were on the brink of extinction when they were saved by a group of zealous people from the province of Cagliari. Since then Nascos number has been increasing slowly.
Today there are about 40 hectares (100 acres) of vineyard left on the island. Because of its near extinction experience, it had lost its fame in the wine market for some time. However, in present times one of the best quality wines in Sardinia is Nasco.
They might be cylindrical-conical in shape and often have two wings, which are marked and pyramidal. The berries are round and soft and have a fine and slim skin.
They are generally yellowish golden in colour with brown speckles and give out a beautiful aroma when they bloom. Nasco has medium vigour, but has low yield of fruit and very low resistance to parasites and fungal diseases.
It now grows almost solely on the calcareous soil of Cagliari. It shares its characteristics and origin with the Muscat family of vines.
There are no reports of Nasco vines outside of Sardinia, making this variety exclusive to the Mediterranean Islands. Some of the most suitable sites for the growth of Nasco are the hillsides near Cagliari like Parteolla, Sibiola, and Dolianova and around Quartu.
The buds of Nasco bloom relatively early during the season. However, this does not pose much of a problem owing to the warm island climate of Sardinia where spring frosts are like a blue moon.
Characteristics of Nasco Wines
Nasco grapes can be used to produce wine in dry(secco), sweet(dolce), fortified(liquoroso) styles. Nasco grapes that are meant for wine production must be harvested such that the yield is around 10 tonnes/hectares and no greater than that.
The finished wines have to reach a certain minimum alcohol level depending on the nature of the particular wine and ranges from 13.5% for dolce, 14.5% for secco and 17.5% for liquoroso.
A bottle of Riserva can be made by aging this wine for minimum two years before releasing in the market and at least one of those years must be spent in oak.
Nasco wines are always related to a strong herbal essence with rosemary and thyme standing out and a muskiness that does complete justice to its name. There are about 15 IGT wines that allow the use of Nasco.
Nasco dehydrates quickly on the vine and causes accumulation of sugar without decreasing its already low acidity any more. However, proper care has to be taken about the Nasco pips, which contain particularly high amount polyphenols which might be responsible for bitterness of this otherwise sweet wine.
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