Central Sardinia – Nuoro and Mandrolisai

Nuoro and Mamoiada region

Nuoro province is the area considered less touristy of the island. It is more famous for its radicate traditions and very particular old villages rather than for the beaches (which are in any case simply amazing also in this area). 

Things to do in Nuoro province

The area around Nuoro city is probably one of the most untouched and unchanged of the whole region and it is also known as Barbagia. In Barbagia you have only spoiled of choice about what to do and what to visit. Opposite to what you would have thought, these remote villages had an incredible cultural and artistic melting pot. 

MUSEUMS: To those willing to have a more cultural kind of vacation, there are some very interesting Museums like the Mediterranean Masks museum in Mamoiada, the MAN museum of contemporary art in Nuoro, the MAMA museum of modern and contemporary art in Atzara, the Museo deleddiano in Nuoro, showcasing the places where the Nobel awarded female writer Grazia Deledda lived. 

ARCHEOLOGY: If you would like to immerse yourself in the beautiful nature, you can choose between a various range of archeological and nuragic sites, like the Nuraghe Tanca Manna, Su Romanzesu site and the Lanaitto valley. While the more active people can recharge at Ortobene trekking area, Su Gologone and the caves of Corbeddu or “Sa oche e su bentu”. 

BEACHES: In this article I wanted to focus more in the inland part of the region, but we are still in Sardinia island, so there are always beautiful beaches with crystal clear waters where to spend some of the most relaxing and memorable days of your vacations. The Orosei gulf is undoubtedly beautiful so just choose a location in your map and you won’t be disappointed. Cala Gonone is one of the most wonderful places, from there you can even rent a raft and explore the bays which are reachable only via sea, like for example the Bue Marino cave. Other recommended beaches are: Posada, Capo Cominio, Cala Ginepro, Berchida beach, Cala Fuili and Cala Liberotto.

VILLAGES: The whole area seems almost abandoned when you get across the region by car, but stopping on your way to visit some of the villages in the area can be extremely surprising. If you are scared about stories of bandits in Sardinia, remember that we are one of the most welcoming residents you can ever meet when traveling. 

Orgosolo, Mamoiada, Oliena, Desulo, Aritzo, Tonara and Fonni are some of the nicest small villages (first 3 also famoous for their street art and artists) in the mountaineous inland of Sardinia. 

Things not to be missed in Atzara: La Robbia, a natural dyeing laboratory where you will discover the ancient art of dyeing with natural herbs in Sardinia. Mama museum of Contemporary art, where you will see the art works of many contemporary Sardinian and Hispanic artists and discover the history of how they arrived in such a small village in the heart of Sardinia.

Wines of the Nuoro province

MAMOIADA: Wine wise, here you are in the heart of Cannonau wine territory. The Cannonau DOC appellation covers the whole region but there are 3 established sub-zones of Cannonau which are recognized for their specific characteristics, plus the area designated as Classico, which comprehend mostly only Nuoro province.

The first sub-zone is Nepente di Oliena (or Oliena), which is exclusively for wines from the town of Oliena, in the eastern Nuoro province. The second is Capo Ferrato, which applies to the communes of Castiadas, Muravera, San Vito, Villaputzu and Villasimius in the island’s southeast corner. The third is Jerzu, which applies exclusively to wines from the Jerzu and Cardedu communes.

While the Classico area is defined within the Nuoro and Ogliastra province. One of my favorite expression of Cannonau in the whole island is the one from Mamoiada village.

Stop in Mamoiada village for a wine tour and tasting while visiting this area. I enjoyed visiting Giuseppe Sedilesu winery and loved seeing their incredible Alberello old vines! The tasting of their wines was pretty well set up and my personal favourite is the Mamuthone, the entry level young expression of Cannonau, extremely fresh and drinkable. 

Other great wineries from this area are: Giovanni Montisci, which is pretty famous for his wine Riserva Frantzisca and Marco Caneddu a very small family owned winery.

While Cannonau from Sardinia have always been considered a full bodied, concentrated, strong wines with high alcohol content, most Mamoiada expressions have a different character. They come from generally older vines, the Alberello is very diffuse and most vines are from 60 to 100 years old. Some producers use concrete vats to age fresher expressions or entry level Cannonau wines, which reveal to have the best drinkability. Responsible work in the vineyard is becoming luckily more popular here, even more than other wine regions of Sardinia. The climate is overall pretty warm, as it is in the whole island but there are some small influences that permit a higher excursion of temperatures between day and night. So you always will have to expect a certain alcohol content in these wines, but working with less oak impact and a better management in the vineyards can still give higher acidity, that balances very well the structure of the wines.  

View of a vineyard at the entrance of Atzara

MANDROLISAI: Here in Nuoro province you will also find another very interesting appellation, which is very small and lesser known: the Mandrolisai DOC. Mandrolisai DOC is a red wine made from the blend of mainly 3 native grape varieties such as Cannonau, Bovale (also called Muristellu) and Monica. The very small producing area of Mandrolisai includes the municipalities of Meana Sardo, Atzara, Sorgono, Ortueri, Tonara e Desulo (Nuoro province) plus Samugheo village, which is in Oristano province.

Here we really are in an area far deep the heart of Sardinia inlands, an area dominated by woods, where the cultivation of vineyards to make vine rapresents only the 15% of the territory. That means that biodiversity is the key factor.

Also another unique characteristic of this appellation is that it is the only one in Sardinia where blending is a mastery. While usually in Sardinian denominations you have the DOC called with the name of the main grape variety and covering almost the whole region, (like Cannonau DOC or Vermentino di Sardegna DOC), here in Mandrolisai the appellation is extremely small in terms of hectares and there is not one main grape variety but it is about blending of 3 grapes. 

There are around 25 producers in the Mandrolisai DOC, when until 10 or 15 years ago there was mainly and only the Cantina Sociale del Mandrolisai in Sorgono. Also here like in Mamoiada, many families used to have their own small parcel of vineyards were to make the wine for the house.

One of the first producers to bet everything in Mandrolisai and start bottling his own wine was Paolo, owner at Fradiles winery. As many other wineries in the area, due to this heritage of family vineyards, also Paolo share the ownership of the winery with his cousin, indeed Fradiles means cousins in the local language. Being actually the first one, Paolo is a true reference point for the other producers, especially the youngest ones.

The beautiful century old Alberello vineyards give some of the best expressions of Mandrolisai I have tasted from the area. Other than the Mandrolisai he also makes a Bovale 100% (also called Muristellu in some areas of the region) and another IGT with Sant’Antiogu grape which is very rare to find.

We had the best lunch ever when visiting these producers at the amazing Agriturismo Su Connottu and Paolo was so kind to bring his Cru Angraris, made with centenary vines, which he considers as a Riserva but it is labeled as Mandrolisai Superiore. Indeed, at the moment it still doesn’t exist a Riserva version of Mandrolisai. The wine has many notes of red and dark fruit, ripen cherry and black berry, spiced sweet notes coming from the aging in barrels for 36 months and beautiful Mediterranean bush notes of Mirto and Ginepro. In the mouth the wine is pretty big and round but the acidity and the tannic texture balances extremely well the structure of the wine and also the alcohol.

I love Paolo’s Mandrolisai because is a wine with an incredible structure, extremely intense but at the same time it has a very sharp acidity that pairs superbly with food and makes all his wines incredibly drinkable. Tasting the future wines from the barrels was super fun !

When visiting Atzara village I had the opportunity to discover another beautiful reality: a wonderful young project from Lorenzo and Damiano, that engaged a new adventure. In 2019, almost by chance they decided to not sell their grapes from the family vineyards that year but start to make their own wine and so their first wine was born.

They are very good friends with Paolo and I loved knowing that they are working together to built a territorial project about Mandrolisai, as they wisely understood that cooperating together is much better that going on your own project alone in this huge and competitive wine world.

Their winery is called Famiglia Demelas and they made such a warm and welcoming hospitality. We tasted not only their wines (which at the moment are two labels) but some of the most delicious products from their territory, like the bread, ham and artisanal jams.

Atzara is a place where time seems almost frozen, people have still a strong connection with their traditions and their families, even extended families, so cousins and close friends.

The wines from Famiglia Demelas have a bright future and an amazing potential, we tasted the Domo, the fresher expression of Mandrolisai, made only in stainless steel and the Giuale, that ages in small oak for a short period. Both wines have an incredible elegance and a lovely drinkability and are an extremely sincere translation of the terroir of Atzara.

When visiting Sardinia next time, you can’t absolutely miss out these fantastic places, like Mamoiada, Atzara and the Nuoro area in general as it will be one of the most authentic parts of your journey.

Published by ManuPaper

Born in Sardinia, living in Tuscany - Montalcino. Certified Italian Sommelier and WSET. Brunello addicted 😊 I am a wine enthusiast and blogger, I love to share my wine discoveries and wine reviews online, on my blog and social profiles. Travel is my second passion together with wine, that's why I enjoy visiting wine regions around the world 🌎 I have a strong experience in Hospitality and can help you in organizing your future trips in Tuscany and Italy. Wine Travel Advisor 🍷 👉🏽Social Media Content Creator and Blogger

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