Consider the world’s greatest white wines: grapes like Chardonnay, Riesling, Chenin Blanc, or Sauvignon have proven to be capable, in the right terroir and in the hands of the right vigneron, of creating pure magic. Well-vinified Marsanne on the hill of Hermitage is equally suited to yielding world-class whites, as is Pinot Gris from the sloping greens of Alsace. But what about a blend of Carcajolu Biancu, Paga Debbiti, Riminese, Rossola Brandica, Biancone, and Vermentinu?
One must travel to the rugged granite hills inland of Ajaccio, the capital of Corsica, to find such an unusual, and, at first glance, perplexing white wine. Here, Jean-Charles Abbatucci is vinifying a piece of local history from the museum-like vineyard of heirloom Corsican varieties his father planted in the early 1960s.
These indigenous grapes became all but extinct in an era when highly productive, ‘commercially viable’ grapevines largely replaced those that Corsicans had been farming for countless generations. In addition to salvaging this important aspect of the island’s heritage, Jean-Charles’s father also logged each cultivar in a sort of secret playbook, recording the vines’ every characteristic including appearance, vigor, disease resistance, and, crucially, olfactory qualities.
The cuvée Général, named for an ancestor of Jean-Charles who heroically fought and died in the French Revolution, is farmed with Abbatucci’s trademark biodynamic zeal, fermented naturally, and aged in oak demi-muids. Broad-shouldered yet fine-grained, it is a resplendent translation of the herb- and flower-studded interior of the Ile de Beauté, with a sea-breeze freshness to contrast the fleshy, sun-imbued voluptuousness on the palate. More than a nod to the island’s rich history of viticulture, the Général is simply a stunning bottle of white wine, undoubtedly on par with France’s established greats.
|Blend:||25% Carcajolu Biancu, 25% Paga Debbiti, 20% Riminese, 15% Rossola Brandica, 10% Biancone, 5% Vermentinu|
|Appellation:||Vin de France|
|Producer:||Domaine Comte Abbatucci|
|Vineyard:||Planted from 1960-1962, 2 ha|
|Aging:||Aged in older 600-L demi-muids|
On his large estate south of Ajaccio, Jean-Charles Abbatucci keeps a pristine poly-culture ecosystem in place, complete with herds of sheep foraging through his vines, groves of olive trees on ancient terraces, and large swaths of untouched forests. His vines come from cuttings of indigenous grapes, sourced decades ago high up in the mountainous interior of the island, saving several native varieties from extinction. To keep his vines happy, he’s known to drive his tractor out to his vineyards and play traditional Corsican polyphonic songs over loudspeakers for their benefit. After the harvest he’ll treat his cellar to the same music as his grapes ferment and come of age. All part of the terroir, he says.
A good doctor prescribed the wine of Nuits-Saint-Georges to the Sun King, Louis XIV, when he suffered an unknown maladie. When the king’s health was restored the tasty remedy enjoyed a vogue at court. Lord, send me a doctor like that!
Inspiring Thirst, page 117