The island of Corsica is only a few hours by ferry from mainland France—shorter than Paris to Nice by TGV—but when you arrive, you get the sense you’ve set foot in a partly foreign country. Some sections of the island feel entirely new, while in others, you can hear whispers of commonality with the mainland. The same is true of the island’s wines. Composed of 50% Grenache and Syrah, Domaine Maestracci’s E Prove rouge bears echoes of the Rhône Valley, Languedoc, and Provence. But the other 50%, Niellucciu and Sciaccarellu, offers an irresistible view into this rugged, independent region. These indigenous varieties bring a unique structure and brightness—an almost tart lift—to the mix that you won’t find anywhere in the south of France. In addition, Maestracci’s terroir is continental despite being situated a mere twenty minutes from the Mediterranean. The mountains that surround the domaine cut off the maritime influence, giving this wine more concentration and full body than it would have if it were made a few miles away, with more access to the sea. Evoking black cherries, tobacco, iron, and the Corsican herbal shrubland called maquis, E Prove just might be the ideal entry point to the sublime and distinct reds of 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.
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