Cannonau Wine: Health Benefits, Taste Profile & History

There’s a small island in the middle of the Mediterranean that’s world-renowned for two things: one of the highest concentrations of centenarians (a one-to-one ratio of men to women, which is pretty unusual, too… ok, so there are three things this tiny land mass may be known for!) and a healthy, tasty wine. Coincidence?

Let’s take a closer look at this special, antioxidant-rich vino from Sardinia, Italy that may… well… help you live longer.

Cannonau grapes growing on a vine in Sardinia, Italy

What is Cannonau Wine?

Grenache Noir (as it’s known in France), Garnasha (in Spain), or what Sardinia locals refer to as Cannonau grapes are grown in abundance in regions where it’s hot and dry.

This thick-skinned red fruit produces high concentrations of anthocyanins and polyphenols because they ripen late (often the last grape to be harvested), and tend to produce wines that are high in alcohol, and low in acid and color.

It is the signature wine of the idyllic Italian island.

The 1,243 miles (2,000 kilometers) of coastline and craggy mountains, along with a rough, rugged interior landscape are the perfect environment for this special red.

In fact, 30% of all the grapes grown and 20% of all the wine produced on the island is Cannonau.

Related: Some of the best Italian table wines.

What are the Origins of Cannonau Wine?

Historic map of Sardinia, Italy
The origins of Cannonau wine is contested by Italians and the Spanish.

The origins of the treasured wine seems to be up for grabs, depending on which historical evidence you believe.

On one side, Sardinians claim the Cannonau grape grew from their soil first, then spread throughout the Mediterranean region.

In 1993, their belief might have been supported when archeologists found evidence of an ancient Nuragic wine press in Monastir on Sardinia’s southern coast — proving that the island has been producing wine since the Bronze Age.

But wait.

The Spanish say they have ampelography (the botany field that identifies and classifies grapevines) evidence that shows the special fruit originated in the Aragon region during the Crown of Aragon in the 14th and 15th century.

They believe the plantings then spread to Catalonia, Roussililon (in southern France), and Sardinia before it was introduced in Australia in the 18th century.

It then found its way through the Languedoc and Southern Rhone region, as well as across the pond to California, during the 19th century.

By the 20th century, the Grenache was one of the first common grapes used for Washington vino.

Although its origins made be a mystery, the red favorite is produced today in Sardinia, Spain, France, California, and Southern Australia.

What is Italy’s Deonominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) System?

Established in 1963, Italy’s equivalent of France’s Appellation d’orgine controlee (AOC), deonominazione di origine controllata (DOC) is only added to an Italian wine’s label if it meets a certain quality standard.

It needs to be produced in a specific region, sold in bottles no more than 5 liters (170 fluid ounces), and includes permitted grape varieties, harvest yields, minimum aging, and alcohol content.

The system is so revered that since 2008 the European Union has preserved the classification under the Protected Designations of Origin (PDO).

As you might have guessed, every bottle of Cannonau wine made on the Mediterranean island has the DOC moniker.

What Does Cannonau Wine Taste Like?

It depends.

Some varieties have flavors of raspberries with hints of anise and pepper. Others favor wild herbs, cherries, and blackberries.

There are those that taste like ripe berries, plum, cranberry, and white spice. And others might describe it as having a smack of licorice, rhubarb, coffee, or cola.

Most Cannonaus are light-to-medium-bodied dark ruby reds, with strong tannins, high alcohol, and low acidity that ages very well.

What are the Health Benefits of Cannonau Wine?

Two Women cheersing to health with red wine
This Italian red packs in extra antioxidants than most other red wines. As always, any health benefits are negated if you drink in excess.

Though most red wines have antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties that may help lower the risk of coronary artery disease, Cannonau wine packs 2-3 times that powerful punch and adds longevity to the list.

Not to mention, the adult grape juice also has high levels of resveratrol, which studies have shown to possibly ward off dementia (as always, drink in moderation).

The best part? You don’t have to down the entire bottle to reap the benefit. Most Sardinians only have 1-2 glasses a day. And if they’re living well into their 90s or 100s, less is definitely more.

But drinking wine can’t be the only thing that helps these Italian islanders live such prosperous lives.

What’s The Sardinian Diet and Lifestyle?

Mediterranean Diet assortment of foods
The Sardinan diet is a slight twist on the Mediterranean diet. They add sheep milk and goat milk along with other ingredients.

This Blue Zone is known for a heart-healthy diet rich in olive oil, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds, with occasional fish, seafood, dairy, and poultry, and (very) rare incidences of red meat and sweets.

But these island natives have their own twist on the Mediterranean diet.

The Sardinians add sheep and goat’s milk and cheese, barley, fennel, fava beans, and chickpeas.

They save lamb, beef, and pork for Sundays and special occasions… all topped off with, of course, their beloved Cannonau wine.

When they’re not eating whole foods harvested from the soil, they’re living the “shepherd’s lifestyle,” climbing the steep, mountainous landscape daily or at the very least, walking everywhere, instead of driving.

Many can also be found handpicking grapes from the strong, woody, Grenache vines (mechanical harvesters and pruning equipment don’t work well with this hardy crop).

Their also known to have close family ties and revere their elderly (who wouldn’t when you stick around so long?).

Good food, good wine, good friends and family, as well as a good daily workout… sounds like a recipe for vitality.

Where Can You Buy Cannonau Wine?

You are less likely to find this delicious Sardinian wine on the shelves of your liquor store. Try out a few online options listed below:

Cannonau Wine FAQ

Below you will find some common questions about Cannonau wine.

What Kind of Wine is Cannonau?

Cannonau wine is a robust red made from the Grenache grape that has a rich, spicy, berry flavor.

This light-to-medium-bodied ruby has strong tannins, high alcohol, and low acidity that pairs well with chargrilled or bold, spicy dishes, as well as hearty stews and marinated Asian.

What is Special About Cannonau Wine?

Among its many special qualities, Cannonau wine is DOC-certified, has seven different styles with several varieties to choose from (including organic), and is produced in dry, hot areas of the world, most notably in Sardinia, Italy.

This Mediterranean island is considered one of the world’s five Blue Zones, where inhabitants prosper beyond conventional life expectancy.

Experts believe their lifestyle and diet (which includes their signature Cannonau wine) is the reason for their longevity.

Is Cannonau Wine Good for You?

Just like most red wines, Cannonau is rich in anti-inflammatories and antioxidants that benefit the heart and brain.

But unlike traditional red wine, this Italian favorite has up to three times the antioxidants and a large dose of resveratrol for even more powerful health benefits.

Not to mention, that the Sardinians have been toasting to good health, loving relationships, and long lives for centuries.

Emma Miller