When you’ve been the principal technical and creative architect of one of Italy’s most esteemed and transformative wine categories, you’re really not going to have much time for outside interests. One would imagine that Giacomo Tachis—one of the pivotal minds behind the legends of the Super-Tuscan movement (Sassicaia, Tignanello, Solaia, and Solengo, just to name a few)—wouldn’t be looking beyond his numerous Tuscan involvements, especially to pursue an affair with a region that has a past with bulk production, distinguishing itself, if at all, on the basis of some sweet wines, many of which are on the verge of extinction.
But Tachis just didn’t see Sardegna quite like that. Though the island became his preferred vacation spot, his first visit provoked far more than a good R&R session. In fact, it wasn’t a get-away destination for long, becoming an official professional outpost in the mid-1980s, when Tachis began to consult for the Consorzio delle Cantine Sociale di Sardegna (subsequently known as the Vini DOC Sardegna). He went on to enlarge his Sardegnian customer base in 1992—after officially retiring—establishing an association with the Istituto Regionale della Vite e del Vino. These associations afforded Tachis the opportunity to provide customized services to wineries that held particular appeal for him. He singled out Argiolas and Cantina Sociale di Santadi for dedicated attention, developing a relationship with the latter that led to the inception of Agricola Punica.
What exactly did he see in Sardegna? Paradoxically, it looked a lot like Toscana pre-Sassicaia—a place that didn’t have much credibility on the national wine scene, let alone the international front. In fact, Tachis believed that Sardegna was undermining itself, relying on practices that did not complement Sardegna’s climatic constitution. Such negligence certainly did not befit the former oenological glory of Southern Italy, which had flourished during the Greco-Roman period. It is Tachis’ conviction that this unlikely phase was significant in Italy’s viticultural memoirs—so much so that many of the practices actually constituted the blueprint for viticultural techniques that emerged in France in the 1970s and ’80s. In effect, therefore, Tachis was seeking to inaugurate a restoration period for a land that had been known as insuli vini (“wine island”). This land, however, trafficked in grapes outside Tachis’ preferred varietal purview—the Bordeaux triumvirate—and it wasn’t particularly interested in admitting outsiders. Tachis respected the Sardegnians’ reluctance, introducing only modest plantings of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah. But, while believing them essential components of a theoretical Sardegnian blend, Tachis wasn’t interested in fashioning a Sardegnian Sassicaia or establishing Cabernet’s innate relationship with the island.
He was far too preoccupied with Spanish native Carignano, one of Sardegna’s three principal varieties. Tachis believed that the way it conducted itself in Sardegna—its intriguing island persona—suggested that Sardegna afforded the grape an ideal context. One of Sardegna’s particular virtues is its protracted period of daily sunlight—an average of seven hours—enabling the grapes to achieve high levels of ripeness at a fairly early stage. Thus, Tachis was inspired to rest his Sardegnian mission on the virtues of a grape best known as a minor constituent in various blends (particularly in France’s Languedoc-Roussillon). Having convinced Sassicaia colleagues Marchese Nicolò Incisa della Rocchetta and Sebastiano Rosa of his belief in both Sardegna and Carignano, Tachis conceived a collaborative effort between Tenuta San Guido and Cantina Santadi, formally realizing his vision with the establishment of Agricola Punica in 2002.
Situated in Sardegna’s southwest, specifically the area known as Sulcis Meridionale, Punica represents two sites—Barrua and Narcao. The vineyards are planted to Carignano (a combination of old, bush-trained vines and new vines), Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah (the last of which was initially worked with on an experimental basis). Punica is committed to crafting Carignano-based wines, the first of which was Barrua, a blend of Carignano, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot (2002 vintage debut). Montessu—a blend of Carignano, Cabs Sauvignon and Franc, Merlot, and Syrah—premiered in the 2005 vintage.
Isola dei Nuraghi