Now is a good time to pay close attention to Corsican reds. The island’s rosés and whites need no further introduction, as they have shown remarkably consistent quality for the last several vintages. At times, however, Corsican reds have veered toward plummy and overripe—which is not surprising, given that temps in the summer can regularly top a hundred for several days straight. Regardless of the heat, one trend I’ve noticed these past few years is our growers’ increasing ability to harness the elements that can counter the sun and limit overripeness. All of our Corsican producers, for example, live close to the sea and their vines lie under a constant sea breeze, which many consider to have cleansing powers that ward off disease and allow grapes to stay cool. Yves Leccia deserves a medal for making elegant and soft reds since day one, long before others cracked the code. Through cool fermentations in stainless-steel tanks, his Patrimonio reveals huge depth and complexity, yet with the smoothest of tannins. It is the ideal Corsican rouge for aging. Open up any of these and consider it your window to what Corsica smells and tastes like. Each has a subtle bouquet of its surroundings: mixed notes of juniper, wild olive tree, sea fennel, pine, thyme, rosemary, chestnut, immortelle de corse, myrtle, saline breezes, and brush smoke... to name just a few.
Raised in a small village in the heart of Patrimonio, Yves worked alongside his father in the vines and cellar at the earliest age he could. The Leccias have been making wine from the finest terroirs of Patrimonio for countless generations. Originally working alongside his sister, he decided to branch off on his own in 2004 and focus on the terroir he felt was best. “E Croce” sits on a thin chalk soil above a bedrock of pure schist, facing the gulf of St. Florent. Yves is a firm believer in the idea that if you want something done right you need to do it yourself, tending his vines alone and working the cellar by himself. He keeps his yields low, knows when to harvest , and knows how to let E Croce express itself in the wines.
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.
Every three or four months I would send my clients a cheaply made list of my inventory, but it began to dawn on me that business did not pick up afterwards. It occurred to me that my clientele might not know what Château Grillet is, either. One month in 1974 I had an especially esoteric collection of wines arriving, so I decided to put a short explanation about each wine into my price list, to try and let my clients know what to expect when they uncorked a bottle. The day after I mailed that brochure, people showed up at the shop, and that is how these little propaganda pieces for fine wine were born.—Kermit Lynch
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