In an arid, rugged offshoot of the Patrimonio appellation known as the Désert des Agriates, the Giacometti family creates wines that reflect the rustic nature of the land without sacrificing approachability or generous, juicy fruit. The perfume of this Sciaccarellu leaps out of the glass with such exuberance that it can barely be contained, flamboyantly mimicking the vivid scent of fresh-pressed berries, as if a fistful of ripe summer fruit had been smooshed against a hot stone. The name is Corsican for “always happy,” and you’ll understand exactly why immediately upon pulling the cork.
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.
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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