I think you could call Antoine’s Carco blanc the wine that made it all happen. Forty years ago, when Antoine took over his father’s estate, hardly anyone had heard of Patrimonio, and even fewer had anything nice to say about its wines. Antoine set out on a solo mission that consisted of a return to natural farming and winemaking, and getting Patrimonio drunk by those who care, away from the tourists and off the island. Mission accomplished, to put it mildly. After all these years, Arena is the reference point of wine merchants the world over for great Corsican wine. It has done more for Corsica and Patrimonio than anyone could have dreamed of. So what makes Carco so special? The path to greatness is wrought with trials and tribulations. In the early days, Antoine’s rouges were inconsistent—at times great, at other times hot and funky, as he experimented with various ways to battle the island’s excessive heat. The Carco blanc, though, was perfection from the start: timeless Vermentinu imbued with salt, sun, and rocks year in and year out. Through it all, Carco kept steady and won Corsica its proverbial seat at the table.
Antoine spearheaded the resurrection of this nearly lost varietal back in the ’90s. Today his son Antoine-Marie is leading the way on its path to the pantheon of noble grapes, now that the vines are a bit older and the domaine has more experience with the varietal under its belt. There is something exotic here, something herbal, quite serious with great tension.
Here’s something fun that was missing from the family’s stable: a silky, easy guzzler that gets just a five-day maceration in tank (shorter than many Beaujolais Nouveaux!) and then six months in tank before bottling. Imagine the drinkability of a Beaujolais with the herbs and aromatics of the Corsican landscape.
Grotte di Sole was always Antoine’s favorite parcel, and it would seem that his other son, Jean-Baptiste, feels the same way, judging by the ease with which he and his brother decided which parcels they would work. As the name implies, the vineyard is part of a large series of southerly exposed grottoes that capture the sun’s rays fully throughout most of the day. The site has produced many of the family’s finest Nielluccius. Jean-Baptiste’s 2015 effort is a serious wine of deep structure and intensity. Think classic, spirited Sangiovese with a wilder, slightly darker-fruited, herb-singed character from the ancient seaside maquis-studded limestone. This bottling will be good for many years to come.