Quartomoro (the Forth Morish) was initially created as an “experimental garage winery” a decade ago, and it slowly became a place where great terroir driven wines are produced by offering an evolving selection subdivided in different wine ranges and with a distinctive production of experimental micro-vinifications. The winery is located in Arborea in the Oristano province on the west coast facing the Mediterranean and the Balearic Islands. The mission is pretty simple to explain: producing wines that best represent one of the most interesting territories in terms of biodiversity which is Sardinia as a whole region. Tough job indeed because Sardinia is the 3rd largest Italian region. The winery always regards the heritage of minimal intervention in the vineyard and in the winery by respecting the natural winemaking process.
Piero Cella and Luciana Baso are a couple sharing love, time and tasks here. Piero has lived and breathed wine culture since he was a child. He became an oenologist and he loves his everyday winery job. Curious and never satisfied by his results, he always aims to improve himself. The passion and the sense of duty, the field research and the love for the wine world: these are the elements that keep him going. Piero has been long time right arm of Giacomo Tachis (1933 – 2016), most likely top 5 hall of fame oenologist in Italy. Just think of Tignanello, Solaia and Sassicaia and you’ll find Piero’s footprint in these famed, limited and pricey bottles. Luciana worked for many years as a teacher but at the same time she was always linked with the wine world due to her family traditions. She used to spend lots of time with her grandfather, who owned a vineyard. After meeting Piero, she was given the opportunity of fully reviving her memories of her childhood life spent among vines and wine must aromas. The couple has two kids.
“Our emotional bond with the wines and the territory and our memories of long walks through vineyards, together with great wine-tasting experiences, has led us finally to realise our dream: Quartomoro di Sardegna. It was a real challenge for us, but we are really proud to have created this evolving regional chateau garage”. As Piero says his long time oenologist experience in all Sardinia took him to drive to all the four corners of this almost rectangular shaped region. Many wine experts have written a lot about the great vocation for viticulture in Sardinia which hosts several geographical wine areas. Each of them is different in terms of soil, climate and grape varieties cultivated and this has been an endless source of inspiration. With very limited property vineyards, Quartomoro has decided to invest in time and research as Piero and Luciana have long time relations with many small family managed vineyards scattered throughout the island. The fragmented picture’s numbers epitomise the huge amount of work done year in year out since 2007 (the debut vintage): 45.000 to 50.000 bottles of wines produced yearly with roughly from 8 hectares managed in different areas of the island comprising a dozen lands’ plots. The couple produces from 15 to 20 references according to the vintage. Crazy enough, right?
The quest to find Sardinian wine gems is endless for Quartomoro while lots of wine professionals have a hard time trying to remember other grape varieties rather the Vermentino (white) and Cannonau (red) which are the two island’s cornerstones. Let’s start from the white ones.
Vermentino: This semi-aromatic white grape arrived in Sardinia 150 years ago from the Iberian Peninsula via Corsica. In Sardinian, it is called “Axina de mesa” or “Axina bionda”. The production of Vermentino has steadily increased since the 1960s, especially in Gallura (thanks to the DOCG appellation), becoming the most important Sardinian white grape variety. This variety is very vigorous and, therefore, suitable for various training systems. It has a constant and generous production. It is also capable of great concentration especially in late vintages. The harvest can be between the third week of August and the last week of September. An early harvest can produce wines with good acidity, which is ideal for sparkling wines. An intermediate harvest produces wines with a good structure and different levels of quality. A late harvest produces wines with a high alcohol content and great structure, which have put the Sardinian Vermentino (and especially Gallura’s) among the great white wines of the world. Vermentino, which prefers moist soil, can give easy drinking or rich and opulent wines.
Beside Vermentino, Piero and Luciana manage to oversee vineyards planted with other white varieties which are pretty obscure in the USA.
Vernaccia: According to a recent archaeological discovery, this white grape variety has been cultivated in the Sinis region (Oristano) for 3000 years. It is a symbol of the history and the culture of Oristano (Vernaccia is traditionally drunk during the Sartiglia carnival).
During the 1970s, there were 1500 hectares of Vernaccia, at the moment there are 400 hectares. Vernaccia di Oristano has a peculiar aging technique thanks to the “flor”, which is a yeast layer that forms at the top of the wine inside the barrel. The barrel is filled to 80% of its capacity to permit the “flor” to grow and to protect the wine from excessive oxidation. This technique, which is used only in the Oristano region and in the Jerez (Spain) and Jura (France) regions, can increase the alcohol level by 0.5% every year and it transforms the Vernaccia into a great wine that should be approached calmly, reflectively to understand its complexity and composition. Today, Vernaccia is also vinified in reduction (as any white wine with current techniques) and blended with other varieties, producing more commercial and easy drinking wines.
Completing the white varieties roster are Semidano, Nuragus (a vigorous variety cultivated in the whole island but especially in the Cagliari province) and Malvasia whose best expression is the Malvasia of Bosa.
Now let’s talk of the red varieties: Cannonau, Carignano, Bovale Grande, Bovale Sardo, Cagnulari, Pascale, Monica and Girò. We’ll try to focus only on a couple of them just to make it short.
Cannonau: This is the most common red grape variety in Sardinia. DNA studies are still going on and most likely this variety is related to Garnacha and Grenache. Due to its flexibility, it can be a difficult variety. In fertile soils, it is a major producer so, to produce quality wine, it needs poor soils (ideally granitic and stony). As it produces a large amount of sugar and very little extract, it needs to be controlled well in the vineyard and in the winery. Sometimes it’s blended with other grape varieties to define and improve its complexity and style.
Carignano: This grape variety has been cultivated in Sardinia for many centuries and It is also cultivated in France (Carignan) and in Spain (specifically in Catalan appellations like Priorat, Montsant, Terra Alta, etc. mostly of the times changing the name in Samsò). Its’ origin is unknown. Carignano is mainly cultivated in the Sulcis region, south-west of Sardinia, where the hot climate provides an ideal terroir for this variety. Carignano was often used by the French, Spanish(and then by the Italians) as a variety to be blended with other “difficult” varieties in order to create smoother wines. It is remarkable that this variety is trained as a bush vine (alberello in Italian or “en vaso” in Spanish) often ungrafted due to the sandy soils. Beside the Sulcis district, little Sant’Antioco island produces spectacular wines from untouched by chemicals ungrafted vines with an average annual yield between 40 and 60 quintals per hectare. A well-managed spurred cordon or the Guyot training system can produce great wines.
Quartomoro produces two sparklers , an entry level wine range called Orriu, a super artisanal range called Memorie di Vite and a top notch tier called Intrecci di Vite.
Òrriu in Sardinian language means weave, weft, warp. Textiles, tapestries and carpets created by using the knotting of the threads technique are very precious within the island. Likewise, the Òrriu project has the ambition to recover various traditionally Sardinian winemaking techniques and to “knott” them with the modern winemaking technology. Orriu’s range includes 4 different wines coming from vineyards that are all located close to the cellar property.
Memorie di Vite means in Italian “Vine Memories” and is the core of the couple’s project. Its mission is to valorise and enhance the native grape varieties of Sardinia by creating terroir driven wines.
The method is simple and strict at the same time: the couple selects only the best grapes from the best old vineyards on the whole island. Quartomoro works with low yield vineyards (preferably unirrigated, ungrafted and bush or Guyot trained) giving way to perfectly healthy grapes.
During the process, the couple always loves to listen and follow the advice and the suggestions from the oldest growers, as most of the time their viticulture tips following vintages changes is fundamental to complement the idea of wine making. This is an interactive project, which is strongly supported by our extensive network of friends who believe in sharing winemaking know-how and viticulture knowledge.
The plan is finally to create a Sardinian Wine Atlas, where each grape variety and wine region of the island are finally represented at their best, from the simple and innovative bottle packaging to the wine itself. Memorie di Vite wines are all produced with indigenous yeast and with a limited control in the cellar as the Piero likes the terroir to have the central part of the stage. This range requires a pretty focused hard-working mind set and is exhausting to manage as it comprises from 8 to 10 different wined depending on the vintage.
Top tier Intrecci di Vite (it means Vine’s Interwovens) comprises 4 different wines (2 of them blend together different varieties coming from different island’s wine corners, while the other 2 wines link island varieties with Italian mainland ones).
We have decided to keep things simple and at the moment Steep Hill imports 4 wines: one sparkler, two wines of the Òrriu range (Vernaccia and Cannonau) and the Carignano from the Memorie di vite tier.
“Z” – Sparkling on the lees. Since 2012, the estate has produced an original 100% Vermentino product: a non vintage sparkling wine on the lees made with the ancestral method by re-fermenting in the bottle the dry base Vermentino, with the addition of the following year’s fresh must. The result is interesting, as the yeast presence gives us “two wines in one”. It is an alternative way of winemaking at the same time recalling the old school peasant tradition.
The hand harvested Vermentino grapes proceed from the Alto Campidano area (Oristano province) and, more specifically, the vineyard dates back to 1985 and is trained with the Guyot system on soil composed of clay, sand, with a lot of skeleton originated by oxidianic decomposition. Vinification: soft pressing, static decantation, tapping, fermentation in steel with neutral yeasts at 18-20°Celsius. The wine matures almost a full year in steel vats until the refermentation which takes place in September of the following year by adding 5% to 10% of fresh must so to capture carbonic bubbles. The added must creates a pied de cuvee and in 48 hours the wine is bottled in order to complete its process. Z is an unfined, un-disgorged ancestral style wine topped with a crown cap.
This is declassified monovarietal table wine, therefore it hasn’t been submitted in order to receive DOC or IGT status. According to EU body of wine laws, the grape variety cannot be written in the front label.
Hence the owners decided to name the wine Z referring to the Z present in Frizzante (fizzy). The vintage camouflage is in the lot number which contains the year.
Vernaccia Valle del Tirso 2019 (Orriu sulle bucce). As all the Òrriu family wines, this comes from a vineyard planted in 1999 in the Arborea – Marrubiu area, not far away from Quartomoro’s cellar. Soil’s nature is very similar to the vineyard of the Z wine (alluvial with a marked component of san d and clay). Hand harvested grapes are soft pressed and must is cold decanted and then tank fermentation takes place at 18 – 20°C. Ageing process keeps going in tank with occasional lees stirring. The wine is release at the end of the following spring presenting always a nice drinkability and intensity.
The third wine presented is Cannonau di Sardegna DOC 2018 Òrriu: the Cannonau from crumbled granitic rock with volcanic origin and traditionally harvested to create elegance and nuanced tones. The vineyard is pretty young (2004) but greatly evolving and is trained with the cordon spurred system. Once again this vineyard is located in the Arborea – Marrubiu area with yields at 50 quintals/hectare. After the soft pressing, destemmed grapes are allowed to ferment in tanks at a temperature never exceeding 30° C. Maceration is pretty short lasting only 7 days and pigeage made by hand. Once racked the wine, it matures 6 months in stainless steel tank and 4th passage 225 liters barriques. The 2018 vintage has a 10% of Bovale. 14% AbV.
Last but not least the CRG (Carignano) Memorie di Vite (L.2018).
This is declassified monovarietal table wine, therefore it hasn’t been submitted in order to receive DOC or IGT status. According to EU body of wine laws, the grape variety cannot be written in the front label and back label can’t display any vintage.
Hence the owners decided to name the wine CRG after the first three consonants the grape variety involved (Carignano). The vintage camouflage is in the lot number which contains the year (L.2018).
This wine comes from a sandy single alberello vineyard (bush) named Calasetta in the Sulcis area (south west of the island), planted in 1967 and still ungrafted. The Carignano thrives here and unlike what has been the normal French habit to blend it in order to smooth the reds, here in Sardinia this grape variety is often bottled alone accepting the challenge of meaty noses and accentuated garrigue “ingredients” dominating the palate. The CRG is velvety wine from bush-trained vines and low-yield vineyards near the sea which can gracefully age for a decade at least. Fermentation is carried with only indigenous yeast and, as per Piero’s consolidated habit, skin maceration is done with hand pigeage and limited to a week in order to avoid beefy wine’s extraction. The ageing process combines tank and 4th passage barriques for 6 months.
In a nutshell