While Domaine Maestracci lies just a few miles from Mediterranean waters at the gorgeous Bay of Calvi, the towering masses of granite that surround this viticultural haven cut off much of the maritime influence that characterizes other Corsican terroirs. “We have a continental climate, shielded from the sea,” explains vigneronne Camille-Anaïs Raoust, who has applied biodynamic farming and planted heirloom Corsican grape varieties since taking over the family domaine. That means dry weather with hot days and cold nights, yielding a full-throttle, inky-dark, deeply concentrated blend of Niellucciu, Grenache, Sciaccarellu, and Syrah. With a perfect balance of grippy tannins to fresh acidity, this is a natural candidate for the cellar, while the wild perfume of licorice, spices, black fruit, and game makes it an ideal partner for lamb.
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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