The wines of some Corsican producers—like Jean-Charles Abbatucci and Yves Canarelli—may appear exotic at first sip, because they are crafted mostly or exclusively with grapes indigenous to the island: varieties such as Sciaccarellu, Niellucciu, and Carcaghjolu Neru. These grapes produce delicious wines that are admittedly different enough to require an open mind and adventurous tongue (not just to taste the wine, but also to pronounce the names). Then there are the wines of Domaine Maestracci, which are more readily understandable for lovers of wines from southern France. Both reds we import from this domaine contain Grenache and Syrah, and you can tell—they feel like the long-lost cousins of reds from Gigondas or Beaumes-de-Venise, separated by 150 miles of land and 150 miles of sea. This irresistibly wild cuvée is a blend of the indigenous grapes Niellucciu and Sciaccarellu, giving it a subtly tart, bright cranberry lift; and more common, southern French grapes, which impart notes of iron, tobacco, black cherries, and pepper. This soulful red may be our best bridge to the beautiful variety of native wines from the Île de Beauté.
High in the foothills of Monte Grossu mountain lies the granite plateau of Reginu, an area long known for U Vinu di E Prove–the wine of the Prove. The plateau has been used for vine and olive growing for centuries. In 1945, when the owner of an olive pressing operation packed up his mill, Roger Maestracci saw a golden opportunity and moved in. Within a few years the domaine had established a firm reputation in the area. Roger passed along the reins to his son-in-law, Michel Raoust, who has since handed over the winery to his daughter, Camille-Anaïs. She allows the red at least two years in large oak casks, while the white is bottled young to maintain the freshness of the terroir. These are quintessential Mediterranean food 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.
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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