In addition to big, brooding wines, Corsica is also capable of producing chillable reds that offer unique flavors—this lively blend of Sciaccarellu, Grenache, and Syrah is a perfect example of such a style from the Île de Beauté. Vigneronne Anne Amalric of Domaine de Marquiliani, an old olive mill on Corsica’s east coast, specialized in rosé (and olive oil) until crafting her first red in 2015. Her third vintage has much in common with her delicate, ethereal rosés: both feature aromas of fresh berries and wild herbs, and both go down oh-so-smoothly. Anne’s remarkable terroir certainly holds some responsibility: sandwiched between snowcapped peaks on one side and the inviting Mediterranean on the other, the area experiences a fresher climate than other parts of Corsica, with cool breezes coming down from Monte Rinosu, one of the island’s tallest summits. The persistent ventilation facilitates sustainable farming, ensuring top-quality raw materials. A perfect summer red loaded with freshness, deep, brambly fruit and smooth tannins, it demands to be chilled and gulped with or without food—no need to think about it too hard. Anne’s rouge is a different face of Corsican wine; and with this red, Marquiliani continues to embody the most elemental form of island pleasure.
The Amalric family has farmed Domaine de Marquiliani since the 1950s. Daniel Amalric earned great recognition for his wines, as he was the first to plant Niellucciu and Syrah on this side of the island. In 1995, he was joined by his daughter, Anne, an agricultural chemist who had returned from mainland France to take her place at the family farm. She works side-by-side with her father and is quick to credit him as her guiding light in the vineyards and the cellar. In spite of her modesty, Anne has become a success in her own right. Her wine made an instant impression on Kermit, who raves, “Drinking her rosé is like drinking a cloud. There’s an absolute weightlessness to it. Nothing is left on the palate but perfume.”
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.
For the wines that I buy I insist that the winemaker leave them whole, intact. I go into the cellars now and select specific barrels or cuvées, and I request that they be bottled without stripping them with filters or other devices. This means that many of our wines will arrive with a smudge of sediment and will throw a more important deposit as time goes by, It also means the wine will taste better.
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