Island Wines of Italy: Alghero Torbato Terre Bianche from Sardegna

Torbato Label
The crest depicts ancient Egyptians pressing grapes. Founders Sella and Mosca considered themselves amateur Egyptologists.

It’s a new month, and that means this Saturday the Italian Food Wine & Travel group (#ItalianFWT) will gather to talk about and taste wines from Italy’s island regions. Of course, we will touch on the well-known places like Sicilia and Sardegna, but there are so many more! Smaller isole are strung, like a loose strand of pearls, all along the coast. Our host, Jill Barth of L’Occasion, invites us to take a closer look at all of Italy’s island jewels in her invitation and preview posts.

For a glimpse of what each group member will contribute to this weekend’s chat, check out the line-up here:

Steven from Steven’s Wine and Food Blog features Sicilian Pasta con le Sarde Wine Pairing #ItalianFWT

Linda from My Full Wine Glass offers From Sardegna to Sicilia by Sea – Two Pairings (#ItalianFWT)

Pinny from Chinese Food and Wine Pairings explores Sicily’s Marsala Wine – A New Product (Wine) Life Cycle that Started in the 18th Century but Continues to Thrive Today! #ItalianFWT

Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla recollects Island Memories, Slow-Roasted Lamb, and Cannonau Di Sardegna

Lynn from Savor The Harvest is in the mood for Italian Island Wine Speak with Vinisola

Cindy from Grape Experiences reveals Discovering Liquid Gold from Sardinia and Sicily at Chicago’s Coda di Volpe

Jennifer from VinoTravels tells the story of The Cultural Heritage of Mamuthone and Cannonau of Cantina Giuseppe Sedilesu

Susannah from Avvinare invites readers to Discover Aleatico from the island of Elba

Wendy from A Day In the Life on the Farm makes Oven Roasted Salmon with Tarragon Tartar Sauce paired with a Sicilian Grillo

Lauren from The Swirling Dervish shares Island Wines of Italy: Alghero Torbato Terre Bianche from Sardegna

Gwen from Wine Predator features Island Wines of Italy: 4 from Sicily paired with pizza ItalianFWT

Jeff from FoodWineClick is Dreaming of Italian Islands While We Wait for Spring

Martin from ENOFYLZ Wine Blog tempts with Sardinian Vermentino di Gallura Paired With Shrimp and Asparagus Risotto

Nicole from Somm’s Table crafts A Passion for Sicily with Passopisciaro

Jane from Always Ravenous is Tasting and Pairing Sicilian Wine From Mount Etna

Traveling Wine Profs share How a Wine Economists Conference Led Us to Wine from the Venice Lagoon

Our hosts Jill and Jason at L’Occasion feature Speaking of Sicily, Italy’s Island Wines In Conversation.

If you’d like to be part of the conversation, it’s easy to do and we’d love to have you! We go live on Twitter Saturday, April 6th, at 11 am ET. You can find the thread by searching for #ItalianFWT and clicking “Latest.” Once you’ve found us, feel free to chime in: just make sure to append #ItalianFWT to your tweets so we can see them.

Sardegna’s Alghero DOC

Perched in the far-northwest corner of the island, Alghero became an approved Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) in 1995, and produces white, red, and rosé still wines; white spumante (sparkling) wines; and two classes of dessert wines: passito-style whites made from dried grapes, and liquoroso-style (fortified) red wines.

Grape varieties run the gamut, from international favorites like Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Cabernet Sauvignon, to lesser-known specimens like Torbato and Cagnulari. As for the terrain, the Alghero region is dominated by a large, flat plain called the nurra, famous for the sea breezes that sweep across the landscape. Under the surface, the soils are a mixture of calcareous limestone, clay, sand, and iron.

The Alghero DOC looks much the same today as it probably did a thousand years ago: plots of vines nestled among pine forests and eucalyptus, interlaced with bright purple oleander; palm trees dot the coastline. It’s almost hard to imagine that one of Europe’s largest vineyards – Sella & Mosca – sits right here.

Sardegna Sella e Mosca Vineyards
“Both eyes and palate will love this land.” (photo: Sella & Mosca)

The History of Sella & Mosca

In 1899, two Piemontese adventurers set out for Sardegna, believing the rugged island offered an opportunity to grow high-quality grapes. Erminio Sella, an engineer, and Edgardo Mosca, a lawyer, transformed what had been sheep-grazing territory into a viticultural powerhouse.

Arriving just as phylloxera had decimated most of the vineyards in Europe, Sella and Mosca created one of the largest plant nurseries in the world. Their catalog once boasted 1,671 grape varieties and 300 different rootstocks, all of which they made available to growers around the world. They continued this service until 1960.

Today, on their 1,600 acre estate i Piani, they produce wine from a wide array of grapes, including Cannonau di Sardegna (aka Grenache), Vermentino, Torbato, Carignan, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Terra Moretti purchased Sella & Mosca in 2016, adding to its already prestigious portfolio of Italian wine labels. In 2018, the vineyards were certified organic.

Sella & Mosca were the first to bottle a 100% Torbato wine.

The Torbato Grape

Torbato is a late-ripening variety, probably one reason it thrives in the hot, dry climate of Sardegna. Calcareous clay soils are its preferred habitat, with the celebrated parcels of terre bianche (ancient chalk and limestone soils formed by sea creatures millions of years ago) producing the best wines.

There is some evidence to suggest that Torbato is related to the Portuguese white grape, Arinto, as well as the Roussillon native, Malvoisie.

Wines from Torbato tend to be lower in alcohol and sugar than many wines grown in such warm conditions, yet they are also lower in acidity. They can be delicate creatures, with nuanced aromas and flavors.

Another Torbato Glass
Vivid gold color belies a rather delicate wine.

2014 Sella & Mosca Torbato Terre Bianche, Alghero DOC (13% abv; $23 retail; Palm Bay International)

100% Torbato, from 18-year-old vines grown on the favorable terre bianche soils. Grapes are cooled and then put through a soft pressing, with the juice allowed to settle and cool again before fermentation, which takes place in stainless steel tanks. There is no malolactic fermentation, and 30% of the finished wine is aged for four months in second- and third-use barrels.

Color: Medium lemon-gold, fading to pale gold at the rim.

Nose: Notes of ripe yellow peach and pear, some lemon pith, and a whisper of mint.

Palate: The same yellow fruit, but less ripe than on the palate; dried apple and almond. Medium in body, medium (-) acidity, medium alcohol. Much to contemplate in this wine but, before I can geek out on all the flavors and aromas, they’ve slipped away.

Another Shot of the Rice Dish
Simple to prepare, this dish features a few of Sardegna’s local ingredients.

Pairing: In reading about the cuisine of Sardegna, I learned that artichokes and mint are native to the island and are used in many dishes. So is fregola, a pasta that is similar to couscous. I found a recipe on the New York Times site for Fregola with Artichokes, Feta, Toasted Almonds, and Herbs. Unable to find fregola, I substituted rice. Not 100% authentic, but it was delicious, giving me an idea of how simple flavors are combined to create a dish of many textures. It worked very well with the wine, and I have no complaints about the pairing.

But my preference would be to enjoy a glass or two of this Torbato all by itself, with nothing to distract me. It’s a wine whose charms deserve a close-up; one to linger over. Since I’ve rambled on about the stunning natural beauty of Sardegna, I will classify this wine in Mother Nature’s language: the Sella & Mosca Torbato Terre Bianche is a rainbow, with its colors appearing faintly through the mist. But, beware: if you’re not paying full attention, you’ll miss it!

Coming in May 2019

The Italian Food Wine & Travel group will explore the Pecorino grape, grown in the Marche and Abruzzo regions on the Adriatic Coast of Italy. Our host will be Lynn from Savor the Harvest. Stay tuned for her invitation post!


  1. As Martin said, thanks for the intro to Torbata and Alghero. I can only imagine the pine forests, eucalyptus, oleander and palm trees scattered about. The plant nursery Sela and Mosca set up is brilliant. Sardinia is on my list!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The history is so interesting — particularly the bit about the vine nursery. The pairing looks delicious as well of course!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. One of my favorite parts about the Italian Food, Wine, and Travel group is the discoveries you make. My food, wine and travel list continues to grow longer with each month and post I read! Torbato, Fregola with Artichokes and Feta, and Sardegna – all on my list!!

    Liked by 1 person

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