Funny how far the pendulum swings sometimes. Twenty years ago, if a red wine wasn’t rich, black, oaky, dense, and with a high score, many didn’t even want to hear about it. Now, some won’t give a wine a chance unless it is fresh, light, easy, and off the radar. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for fresher, livelier reds with whole-cluster fermentation, lighter extraction, and less new wood. But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. At times you need a wine you can chew on a bit. It’d be a shame to open a Bandol or a Châteauneuf-du-Pape and not taste that deep, lavish juice we all love. I certainly wouldn’t want to eat a hearty bœuf bourguignon every other day, but now and then, it’s just what the doctor ordered. These three Corsican reds are resolutely old-school: dark, full-bodied, juicy, and proud of it. The Maestracci E Prove, one of our longest-running reds from Corsica, ages a few years in large wooden casks to tame its wild, animal side. At four years old, it has mellowed and shows great class, especially for its price. The Giacometti Cuvée Sarah, an aromatic mix of roasted, smoking herbs with plenty of tannins to chew on, goes down with pleasure and calls for another round (and a grill). The final of the trio, Antoine-Marie Arena’s Carco, is perhaps the finest and stateliest of the bunch. The bottle holds a fair share of sunshine and exhibits a noble, Tuscan-like quality.
The wines of some Corsican producers—like Jean-Charles Abbatucci and Yves Canarelli—may appear exotic at first sip, because they are crafted mostly or exclusively with grapes indigenous to the island: varieties such as Sciaccarellu, Niellucciu, and Carcaghjolu Neru. These grapes produce delicious wines that are admittedly different enough to require an open mind and adventurous tongue (not just to taste the wine, but also to pronounce the names). Then there are the wines of Domaine Maestracci, which are more readily understandable for lovers of wines from southern France. Both reds we import from this domaine contain Grenache and Syrah, and you can tell—they feel like the long-lost cousins of reds from Gigondas or Beaumes-de-Venise, separated by 150 miles of land and 150 miles of sea. This irresistibly wild cuvée is a blend of the indigenous grapes Niellucciu and Sciaccarellu, giving it a subtly tart, bright cranberry lift; and more common, southern French grapes, which impart notes of iron, tobacco, black cherries, and pepper. This soulful red may be our best bridge to the beautiful variety of native wines from the Île de Beauté.
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