An early resistant to the wave of chemical farming and technological winemaking that swept across France decades ago, Antoine Arena inadvertently became a pioneer of what is now known as the natural wine movement. But his legacy will truly be cemented as an ardent defender of the Corsican identity, as expressed through the lens of the Patrimonio appellation and its great terroirs. While he has passed on most of his vineyard holdings to his two sons, he still vinifies a few cuvées each year with as much passion and dedication as ever. This five-year-old bottling of 100% Niellucciu showcases the dark, flaky schist, known locally as marticciu, that is found around the winery. Antoine’s less-is-more approach in the cellar yields a vibrant tonic akin to a savory brew of muddled stone, wild herbs, and salty sea air. To experience the best this island has to offer, this bottling from the godfather of Corsican terroir-driven winemaking is not a bad place to start.
While Domaine Maestracci lies just a few miles from Mediterranean waters at the gorgeous Bay of Calvi, the towering masses of granite that surround this viticultural haven cut off much of the maritime influence that characterizes other Corsican terroirs. “We have a continental climate, shielded from the sea,” explains vigneronne Camille-Anaïs Raoust, who has applied biodynamic farming and planted heirloom Corsican grape varieties since taking over the family domaine. That means dry weather with hot days and cold nights, yielding a full-throttle, inky-dark, deeply concentrated blend of Niellucciu, Grenache, Sciaccarellu, and Syrah. With a perfect balance of grippy tannins to fresh acidity, this is a natural candidate for the cellar, while the wild perfume of licorice, spices, black fruit, and game makes it an ideal partner for lamb.
Of these three Niellucciu-based reds, Muriel Giudicelli’s Patrimonio shows the strongest kinship to its Tuscan cousins (remember that Niellucciu is genetically identical to Sangiovese, having migrated to the island centuries ago). Less rustic than its counterparts, it radiates pure class—a trademark of Muriel’s wines, achieved through organic and biodynamic farming, gentle, infusion-style vinifications, and long élevages in carefully selected foudres. This elegant thoroughbred of a wine emanates a deep and mysterious aroma you could get lost in. The flavors penetrate and linger, offering suggestions of black cherry and fragrant maquis. Approachable today with some aeration, it should age like a great old-school Chianti—plus some extra Corsican gusto.
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