Sardinia, the Mediterranean island just off the coast of mainland Italy, has a unique and diverse panorama featuring the best of land and seascapes, allowing for the cultivation of a wide range of grape varieties. Today, quality is key with many vintners styling reds like Cannonau and Carignano and whites like Vermentino, which all show a deep connection to their home. Vermentino is very much a star of the island, for its easy-drinking personality and versatility.
That desire for quality is especially true of Jankara. This budding winery was first founded in 2006 by Renato and Angela Spanu who currently live in Renato’s hometown of Gallura, in northeastern Sardinia, having moved from frenetic south Florida to fulfill a lifelong dream of making wine. The Empson family recently acquired a stake in the boutique winery, investing in the great potential of the vineyard sites and capitalizing on a shared passion for Sardinia with the Spanu family. The vision remains the same, “We are 100% family operated. I work in the vineyards with my cousin. This is why you can count on the strictest quality control. We don’t compromise,” explains Renato.
The winery makes five wines, including a refreshing Vermentino di Gallura. The appellation is the only DOCG (since 1996) in Sardinia and is a virtual benchmark for all other Vermentinos – from Tuscany and Liguria all the way to California – with many saying the gorgeous profile achievable here, often featuring white blossoms infused with zesty salinity, citrus, green apple, tropical aromas, and herbal nuances, with almond on the finish, is what all other Vermentino aspires to. This light-skinned variety thrives in poor, less fertile soils, which it finds in Gallura. The area is known for its unique geological features, rugged terrain, and granite formations, which have been shaped over millions of years. “It sits atop a giant slab of granite, thus the soils are basically crushed granite. So what we get is mineral-driven wines with great complexity,” says Renato.
The Jankara Vermentino vineyards are located in San Leonardo, which Renato likens to the “Gran Cru” of Vermentino. “We wanted San Leonardo. And when my wife and I went there, we picked the site, planted it and maintained it. Here there is so much salinity and it gives so much depth to the wines.” It is located about 200-450 meters above sea level on the northern side of the mountain equidistant from the sea to the northeast and west and the mountains to the south.
The climate is heavily influenced by Lake Liscia and Mount Limbara, which rises 1,400 meters in the air. Diurnal temperature changes can be quite significant, allowing for long growing seasons and the development of rich, complex, and nuanced flavor profiles. “Long hang times – leaving the grapes on the vine without overripening is sort of the holy grail of winemaking,” explains Renato, who also favors low yields and dry farming, which further helps concentrate flavors and build more character and intensity. And finally, mistral wines help keep the grapes dry and free of disease. Jankara also works with Gianni Menotti, one of Italy’s most well-known enologists, especially for his work in Collio.