The 1960s in Corsica saw a widespread expansion of viticulture, much of it subsidized by the French government, entailing mass planting of purportedly “noble” French grape varieties in place of the humble native cépages. That trend has now been completely turned on its head as Corsican vignerons reclaim their heritage and focus on the island’s wealth of autochthonous varieties, with great success. In this bottling from Yves Leccia, the French import Grenache—called Elegante in Corsica—takes center stage, offering fragrant notes of lavender spiced with balmy Mediterranean brush. A splash of the indigenous Niellucciu completes the blend, adding some muscle to this savory, floral red whose sunny island flavors come into focus when slightly chilled.
Just as Burgundian Chardonnay is known for being sensitive to the nuances of place, Vermentinu yields notably different wines between—and within—the appellations of Corsica. In the granite hills above the capital city of Ajaccio, white wines are among the island’s most delicate, typically featuring gentle floral suggestions and a charming peachiness. Born halfway between mountains and the sea, Jean-Charles Abbatucci’s biodynamically grown Vermentinu also presents a whisper of salinity, making it a lovely apéritif or the ideal match to Mediterranean-inspired antipasti.
This is the second vintage produced from Canarelli’s “land of dreams,” the incredible white limestone terroir of Bonifacio. Planting this land, where there are only three vignerons currently working, has long been a dream of Canarelli’s, and he has spent years clearing by hand the land he purchased of trees, scrub, and massive amounts of rock in order to plant it to both white and red. His confidence in the results despite lack of proof in bottle elsewhere was inspiring, and I waited patiently and excitedly to be able to finally taste the first wine, after following the preparation, planting, plowing, and nurturing of the vineyards over the last five years. A blend of Sciaccarellu, Carcaghjolu Neru, and Minustellu, it is a red with a character unlike any other in Corsica. Each variety brings something interesting to the table: Sciaccarellu is Chambolle-like in its delicacy, while the Carcaghjolu brings the growl and brawn of Gevrey, and the Minustellu the silky seductiveness of Vosne. A wine of towering finesse and ethereal beauty, this new creation from Yves Canarelli emphatically reinforces the potential of Corsican wine to compete with the best from anywhere for your interest and attention.
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