Biancu Gentile, once widely grown and admired in Corsica, was later abandoned and left for dead. How could such a unique grape—found only on the island and famed for its unmatched aromatics—fall from such heights? It was a victim of rural exodus out of an economically and culturally battered Corsica, in an era when Corsican craft and tradition were frowned upon by the French government. Thankfully, in more recent years a new and younger generation set out to right a wrong, and went searching for remnants of the famed Biancu Gentile. At the time, it is estimated there was only a single acre left under vine, old and poorly tended at that. Little by little, piece by piece, good budwood was selected, propagated, grafted, and replanted. Soon six acres were under vine. Talk spread further among growers, and the plantings multiplied. Fast-forward a decade or so to today and the future of this grape is undeniable. It is the up-and-coming white Corsican grape, rapidly winning back the reputation it had earned so long ago. Canarelli gives his Biancu Gentile long aging in concrete eggs on its lees, to coax out the richer texture and summer flower notes—perfect for the Mediterranean table. It is a testament to the singularity and enormous potential of Biancu Gentile, saved from the brink of extinction.
Near the village of Tarabucetta, outside of Figari on the southern tip of Corsica, Yves Canarelli is championing the restoration of native Corsican varietals. The appellation Corse Figari lies along a plateau just inland from the coast, where grapes have been farmed since the 5th century B.C. Though Figari is regarded as the most ancient growing region of Corsica, it has taken pioneers like Yves having the courage to rip out entire vineyards of foreign varietals before Corsican wines have finally received the recognition they deserve. After nearly ten years of watching and tasting Yves’s evolution, KLWM is proud to include Clos Canarelli in our portfolio as one of the cream of the crop Corsican domaines.
I first set foot on the island in 1980. I remember looking down from the airplane window seeing alpine forest and lakes and thinking, uh oh, I got on the wrong plane. Then suddenly I was looking down into the beautiful waters of the Mediterranean. Corsica is a small, impossibly tall island, the tail of the Alp chain rising out of the blue sea.—Kermit Lynch
Kermit’s first trip to the island proved fruitful, with his discovery of Clos Nicrosi’s Vermentino. More than thirty years later, the love affair with Corsica has only grown as we now import wines from ten domaines that cover the north, south, east, and west of what the French affectionately refer to as l’Île de Beauté.
Corsica is currently experiencing somewhat of a renaissance—interest has never been higher in the wines and much of this is due to growers focusing on indigenous and historical grapes found on the island. Niellucciu, Sciarcarellu, and Vermentinu are widely planted but it is now common to find bottlings of Biancu Gentile and Carcaghjolu Neru as well as blends with native varieties like Rossola Bianca, Minustellu, or Montaneccia.
As Kermit described above, Corsica has a strikingly mountainous landscape. The granite peaks top out above 9,000 feet. The terroir is predominantly granite with the exception of the Patrimonio appellation in the north, which has limestone, clay, and schist soils.The wines, much like their southern French counterparts make for great pairings with the local charcuterie, often made from Nustrale, the native wild boar, as well as Brocciu, the Corsican goats milk cheese that is best served within 48 hours of it being made.
Trust the great winemakers, trust the great vineyards. Your wine merchant might even be trustworthy. In the long run, that vintage strip may be the least important guide to quality on your bottle of wine.—Kermit Lynch
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