I first looked into the cannonau grape after reading Dan Buettner’s book, The Blue Zones.
Blue Zones, according to Buettner, are regions of the world where people live much longer than average.
Could a red wine be a magic elixir?
It seems the cannonau is working for the people of Sardinia. Sardinia has one of the largest populations of vibrant male centenarians and has been designated a Blue Zone — one of the highest concentrations of people who reach the golden age of 100. Buettner cites other lessons to longevity including putting family first, walking, goats’ milk, celebrating elders and laughing, to name a few. But it was this odd sounding grape “cannonau” I wanted to explore.
Cannonau was thought to be just another name for grenache. This brought a lot of debate among locals pondering how could the grape they hold so dear belong to the Aragons? This was another point I picked up while reading The Blue Zone: Sardinians are not like other Italians. They are known for (and proudly admit) they tend to be stubborn, intelligent, reserved and serious.
The debate piqued the interest of scientists from the University of Pennsylvania. During an excavation in Borore, Sardinia, they discovered hundreds of grape seeds dating to 3,200 years ago. DNA testing confirmed the grape seeds were the remnants of cannonau and distinctly different from the modern-day grenache grape. This find makes the cannonau one of the most ancient wines in the world.
Cannonau is a very dark, robust red wine. It is referred to as “vino Nero” by locals, which literally means “black wine.” This robust, nearly black wine leads us back to the pondering thought of the centenarian population of Sardinia. Cannonau has one of the highest levels of polyphenols in wine, rich in anthocyanins (common in most berries) and the long maturation period of winemaking.
So, is this grape the fountain of youth? I’m not suggesting we all run out and stock up cases hoping to catch up with the Sardinians in longevity. But combining it with the other factors of laughter, family and walking, I’m certainly open to exploring this grape in my food and wine pairings as I continue my quest along the path to long life.
- 2017 Argiolas Costera Cannonau, Italy (about $20 retail)
- 2017 Sella Mosca Cannonau Di Sardegna, Italy (about $19 retail)