Up until the 1960s, wine in Corsica was produced, for the most part, on small family-owned plots that made just enough wine to last a family through the year. Often each family in a village would own a terrace on a nearby slope, donkeys would carry the harvest back to the village, and the grapes would be crushed by foot and vinified in stone chambers carved out of the rock in the cellars. Vines weren’t seen as anything much different from the garden or the pasture, providing life’s essentials for living off the land. That is the Corsica that Muriel Giudicelli recalls from her childhood, when her great-grandfather would take her out into the family vines in Patrimonio, where the sights and smells of the vineyard left a deep impression. It goes without saying that although the great-grandfather had certainly never heard of the word, the plot was beyond organic, having never seen a drop of any chemicals and being carefully worked according to the cycles of the moon. Modern times caught up to Muriel and her family, so her parents took her with them to the mainland to make a living, and the vines became a distant memory. After several decades away, Muriel felt a strong calling to return. With the help of a few key people, including Antoine Arena, she patched together her vineyards and a cellar, and Domaine Giudicelli was born. The spectacularly preserved natural beauty and cultural heritage of Patrimonio were, and are, to Muriel, its greatest strengths. For her, it was out of the question to dishonor Patrimonio by throwing chemicals into the vines or into the wines, so biodynamic farming and non-interventionist winemaking was the only coherent way forward. To this day, Muriel speaks of Patrimonio in reverent terms and remains in awe of how limestone, schist, and granite all intertwine on her parcels in the famed Campo Gallo sub-region, a terroir that makes her wines unlike any other we bring in from Patrimonio. Her rouge—aged for a year and a half in large casks and then bottle-aged a while longer before release—is vivid, youthful, and aromatically potent. Give it some air when you open it and watch it evolve seamlessly in the glass. It is soft and juicy, with perfectly ripe black fruit notes, while the tannins are quite present yet harnessed just right. “When I was a child in Corsica,” Muriel recalls, “my mother fed me healthy fruits and vegetables from here, which were of course organic. It’s self-evident to me to continue these good practices on my own land.” Indeed, I tend to picture Muriel’s wines as freshly picked from the garden—ripe, healthy, and ready to eat. We hope you will enjoy these latest additions from Corsica, from a small, yet important garden.
During her studies, Muriel Giudicelli befriended Antoine Arena, who, one day in 1996, called her up and told her about a retiring vigneron with terrific old vines, no children to take over, in a great part of Patrimonio, who was looking to sell. Muriel jumped at the opportunity, bought those 5 hectares of vines, and in 1997 began making wine. From day one, she farmed organically. She obtained organic certification in 2006 and biodynamic certification in 2012. Muriel’s original holdings, as well as newer ones she has added since then, are all in the highly regarded Campo Gallo (“field of the rooster”) sub-region of Patrimonio, distinct due to its diverse pockets of green clay, red clay, granite, schist, and limestone. Yves Leccia’s parcels border hers. Today she has 10 hectares in total, which she works with her husband (he’s in charge of the vines, she’s in charge of the cellar) and only one employee.
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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