Corsica boasts a wealth of rare, indigenous grape varieties, but many of these fell out of favor over the latter half of the twenty-first century as the French government went on a crusade of sorts to replace them with varieties from the mainland—Grenache, Carignan, Syrah, etc. This sort of vinous colonialism neglected to account for the fact that the Corsican grapes were perfectly adapted to the local terroir, whereas grapevines from the Rhône or Provence thrived under completely different conditions; ultimately, it led to the loss of many unique wines. Thanks to a proud group of Corsican vignerons, led by Antoine Arena, Jean-Charles Abbatucci, and Yves Canarelli, dozens of heirloom grape varieties have been identified and brought back from the brink of extinction in a valiant effort to reproduce what might resemble the traditional wines of Corsica’s past. One such grape, Carcaghjolu Neru, is endemic to southern Corsica, and has now been replanted by a handful of vignerons across the island. Canarelli’s Costa Nera is riveting proof that this grape belongs on the granite slopes of Figari. Deep, dark, powerful, and mineral-driven, this is Corsica’s answer to Cornas—loaded with pepper, graphite, wild fruit, and herbaceous maquis nuances, full of drive and freshness. This is truly a grandiose monument to the power of Corsica’s heirloom grapes.
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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