Now is a good time to pay close attention to Corsican reds. The island’s rosés and whites need no further introduction, as they have shown remarkably consistent quality for the last several vintages. At times, however, Corsican reds have veered toward plummy and overripe—which is not surprising, given that temps in the summer can regularly top a hundred for several days straight. Regardless of the heat, one trend I’ve noticed these past few years is our growers’ increasing ability to harness the elements that can counter the sun and limit overripeness. All of our Corsican producers, for example, live close to the sea and their vines lie under a constant sea breeze, which many consider to have cleansing powers that ward off disease and allow grapes to stay cool. Domaine Giacometti brings freshness to their reds through radically different vinification methods. Gone are the days of extraction. The domaine now speaks of “infusion,” coaxing flavor and spice from the grapes by gently soaking them in their juice, more along the lines of making tea than wine. Their Patrimonio rouge is deceptively light and fluid, so leave it some time in the glass to experience all the subtleties they’ve teased out of the grapes.
In 1987, the Giacometti family boldly moved to the Agriates Desert, a large, rugged, empty swath of land between the Cap Corse and Calvi on the northern end of Corsica. They took over vines that had been planted in 1966, which authorities granted Patrimonio appellation status, even though the estate is several miles from the village of Patrimonio. The founder, Christian Giacometti, has gradually been handing over the reins to his daughter and son after 25 years of constant and heroic labor to make wine in an inhospitable land. They continue on with their unique and eminently drinkable style of Patrimonio, while experimenting with Sciaccarellu plantings (extremely rare for Patrimonio) and offering a glimpse of great things to come.
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.
Every three or four months I would send my clients a cheaply made list of my inventory, but it began to dawn on me that business did not pick up afterwards. It occurred to me that my clientele might not know what Château Grillet is, either. One month in 1974 I had an especially esoteric collection of wines arriving, so I decided to put a short explanation about each wine into my price list, to try and let my clients know what to expect when they uncorked a bottle. The day after I mailed that brochure, people showed up at the shop, and that is how these little propaganda pieces for fine wine were born.—Kermit Lynch
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