Chances are you know Grenache primarily from the southern Rhône: the reds of Gigondas, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Beaumes-de-Venise, etc. But this grape also plays a central part in many of the red blends from Corsica, often mixed with Niellucciu—Sangiovese’s Corsican twin—to yield wines that are excitingly distinct from those of the Rhône Valley. This rouge, for example, made up of 80% Grenache and 20% Niellucciu, is sunnier, a little more exuberant, and has a little more muscle than its relatives from the mainland, which are more often some variation of Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, and Mourvèdre blends. Dip your nose into your glass and you might think it’s going to be a summertime quaffer. Once you take a sip, however, the salty, stony structure tells you you’re dealing with a serious wine that will be on an upward trajectory for another five years. Notes of black cherries, crushed raspberries, and a slight hint of black olive are accompanied by a grippy texture, asserting its untamed Corsican spirit.
Raised in a small village in the heart of Patrimonio, Yves worked alongside his father in the vines and cellar at the earliest age he could. The Leccias have been making wine from the finest terroirs of Patrimonio for countless generations. Originally working alongside his sister, he decided to branch off on his own in 2004 and focus on the terroir he felt was best. “E Croce” sits on a thin chalk soil above a bedrock of pure schist, facing the gulf of St. Florent. Yves is a firm believer in the idea that if you want something done right you need to do it yourself, tending his vines alone and working the cellar by himself. He keeps his yields low, knows when to harvest , and knows how to let E Croce express itself in the 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.
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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