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Antoine Arena and the Corsican Identity

by Anthony Lynch

Arena Family 6-Pack Sampler

France   |   Corsica

Normally $293.00
(a 25% discount)

This item does not take further discounts

Drinking the wines of Corsica is akin to a visceral immersion into the natural wonders of the Île de Beauté: each sip is the liquid sum of sea, sun, stone, wind, and the wild maquis herbs that make up this stunning land. But beyond this, it is also a window into the Corsican identity and the strong local culture that has been forged as a result of the island’s turbid history. From this perspective, there is no better portal to understanding Corsica than through the wines of Antoine Arena.
     Antoine’s career began in 1975, when he returned to the family farm in Patrimonio after law studies in Nice. Tensions between Corsicans—notably, separatists in favor of independence—and the French government had reached a boiling point, leading to violent episodes that ultimately marked the founding of Corsica’s extremist nationalist movement. At the root of these issues lay the sentiment that France treated Corsica like a colony, exemplified by the special treatment given to pieds-noirs (Algeria-born French citizens repatriated to Corsica after Algeria won its independence in 1962) in the form of unfair land grants and government subsidies. Rather than using his education to try to make a living on the mainland, as his parents so adamantly favored, Antoine got word of the incidents taking place back home and chose to return to his roots and work the land, just as countless generations of Arenas had done before.
     At the time, Corsican wine had yet to turn many heads. Though the Arenas’ hometown of Patrimonio had become the island’s first AOC in 1968, most Corsican wine was still either produced in tiny quantities for family consumption, or mass-produced and destined for blending with leaner, lighter bulk wines from the mainland. The decision to come back to the domaine was a controversial one—his own father wouldn’t speak with him for a whole month after his return—but Antoine was determined to succeed as a vigneron, relying on traditional methods of farming to valiantly wave the flag for his homeland through his wines.
     After expanding the family holdings to include some of Patrimonio’s finest terroirs and honing the art of vinification, Antoine gradually built a reputation for himself, and for Corsica, that spread to the mainland and eventually overseas. His riacquistu—a term used to describe Corsicans' patriotic re-appropriation of their culture and language in the 1970s and ’80s—inspired many other vignerons to follow suit, eventually bringing unprecedented recognition to local wines. He also spearheaded a movement to salvage and replant near-extinct heirloom grape varieties, and in doing so preserved a fascinating aspect of Corsica’s viticultural heritage.
     Today, Antoine works alongside his two sons, Jean-Baptiste and Antoine-Marie. The three continue to set the bar for Patrimonio and all of Corsica, crafting a number of unique cuvées through organic farming and hands-off winemaking. With this sampler, you will discover the Arena family’s work through several of their diverse terroirs, savoring the essence of Corsica and consequently delving deep into the animated history that has come to define what it means to be Corsican.

Sampler Includes:

2016 Patrimonio Blanc “Carco” • Antoine Arena $48.00
Sourced from a steep slope of fossil-rich limestone rubble, this Vermentinu represents Antoine’s trademark cuvée. Full-flavored with a stony, saline finish.

2016 Vin de France Blanc “Grotte di Sole” • Jean-Baptiste Arena  $45.00
Named for a naturally-formed cavern in which vineyard workers traditionally sought shelter from the elements, this sun-drenched vineyard gives a full-bodied Vermentinu with ample flesh, depth, and breadth.

2013 Vin de France Blanc "Cuvée Kermit Lynch” • Antoine Arena  $49.00
A blend of Vermentinu with Biancu Gentile that Antoine bottled after Kermit suggested he marry the two varieties—loaded with energy and compelling island aromatics.

2016 Patrimonio Rouge “Grotte di Sole” • Jean-Baptiste Arena  $46.00
Full-throttle Niellucciu from a south-facing limestone slope. Tastes wild, and should be served with something wild.

2015 Patrimonio Rouge “Carco” • Antoine-Marie Arena  $46.00
Aromas of black fruit, graphite, wild herbs, and game over firm, stony tannins. Saturated with flavors of the Île de Beauté.

2015 Patrimonio Rouge “Mémoria” • Antoine-Marie Arena  $59.00
The only Arena cuvée to see barrel-aging features the domaine’s oldest vines, a plot of Niellucciu planted by Antoine’s grandfather in the 1920s on schist soils around the family house. Rich, potent, and age-worthy.

Normally $293.00
(a 25% discount)

About Corsica

map of Corsica

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.

More from Corsica or France

2018 Île de Beauté Rosé

Yves Leccia  France  |  Corsica


2015 Vin de France Blanc “Grotte di Sole”

Jean-Baptiste Arena  France  |  Corsica  |  Vin de France


2017 Corse Figari Rouge “Amphora”

Clos Canarelli  France  |  Corsica  |  Corse Figari


2016 Vin de France Blanc “Grotte di Sole”

Jean-Baptiste Arena  France  |  Corsica  |  Vin de France


2015 Costa Nera

Clos Canarelli  France  |  Corsica


2017 Vin de France “Bianchi”

Antoine-Marie Arena  France  |  Corsica  |  Vin de France


2015 Corse Calvi Rouge “E Prove”

Domaine Maestracci  France  |  Corsica  |  Calvi


2015 Patrimonio Blanc

Yves Leccia  France  |  Corsica  |  Patrimonio


2016 “Monte Bianco” Rouge

Domaine Comte Abbatucci  France  |  Corsica  |  Ajaccio


2016 Muscat du Cap Corse “Grotte di Sole”

Jean-Baptiste Arena  France  |  Corsica  |  Muscat du Cap Corse


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