The big news at Maestracci recently has been the conversion to biodynamic agriculture. As with many of her peers in Corsica, when Camille-Anaïs Raoust took over the reins of the domaine a few years back, one of her first steps forward was to push a more natural, holistic approach in the vineyards and the cellar. While previous generations weren’t necessarily hostile to that idea, they were concerned about the associated risks, such as lower yields, and increased production costs. Maestracci, who has long been one of the better values of the island, is trying hard to balance these concerns, doing their best to keep the wines healthy for the environment and our wallets, and fun for us. The 2018 vintage succeeds on those fronts, all while reaching new levels, showing an extra edge of complexity, a finish that seems to linger longer, and a deeper level of enjoyment than we’ve ever seen before.
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.
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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