Tenute Dettori: A Natural Obsession in Sardegna

I have a new obsession: the wines of Tenute Dettori in Sardegna.  Alessandro Dettori must be one of the most strong-willed and polarizing figures in the Italian wine community today.  He is committed to producing truly natural, extremly authentic wines from his little plot of Badde Nigolosu, within the IGT subzone of Romangia. I had heard so many stories about this winery, by the time I had the chance to taste the wines I didn’t think they could live up to the legends they had become in my mind.

Somehow, they exceeded expectations. 

I was intrigued by the stories I heard about this winery from the beginning- all mono-varietals, no international grape-blending (a common practice in Sardegna), completely spontaneous and natural fermentation with ambient yeasts, maceration and fermentation in lined cement vats, no chemical fertilizers or pesticides in the vineyards.  Sounds like heroic winemaking to me.

READ THIS! The wines “are what they are, and not what you want them to be.”

Alessandro Dettori is so committed to complete transparent authenticity, that he chooses to “de-classify” his wines from DOC status, in order to give the wine drinker a clearer picture of where his grapes are grown- within the IGT Romangia zone.  His reasoning for this is not esoteric or philosophical at all.  It’s quite simple: the DOC for “Cannonau di Sardegna” states that the grapes can be grown anywhere on the island, provided they make up a certain percentage of the wine in the bottle.  By using an IGT Romangia designation, Dettori is better able to pin-point where his grapes come from.  And as he states, “If just the cannonaus that my three vineyards produce are each different from the others, then just imagine the differences between Cannonaus grown in areas separated by hundreds of kilometers.”  So true.

The wines are raw, they scream of terroir and agelessness.  These are wines you want to taste over and over again throughout your lifetime.  I would fill a cellar with these wines just to understand their arc of maturation throughout my lifetime.  They are alchemic magic in the glass.
I had the opportunity to taste through a few bottles with David Weitzenhoffer, one of the owners of Dettori’s import company, A.I. Selections, a month ago in Seattle.  The Dettori 2007 was one of my favorites- a brick-red wine, slightly less than limpid due to the non-existent filtration.  The nose was full of sage and lavender notes, a hint of that red-earth, irony component, all set off by a pretty, sunny note of dried plums.

On the palate the wines was alive- dancing fast and hard across the tongue.  There is an excitement to all of these wines- they’re not like anything else you’ve tasted.  Every bottle is slightly different from the last- these wines are alive!  There’s also a great purity to them- an honesty.  There is no oak to influence the must, no pre-selected yeasts to determine the outcome.

This could be a recipe for disaster in the hands of anything other than a great winemaker, and grape-grower.  However, trust me when I say Alessandro Dettori is not just “great”, he is a genius.