With a 2,000-year winemaking history and now exporting just a portion, there’s an alluring mystery to Corsican wines. This French island, which is close to Italy and claims to be neither, is as mysterious as it’s grapes.
I didn’t know much about Corsica, let alone it’s food or wine, until the French Winophiles group chose a virtual visit to the island. We’ll surface on Twitter to share details February 18th at 10:00 a.m. central using the hashtag #Winophiles. Come join our chat!
Not long ago Corsican winemakers ripped out vineyards preferring smaller quantities of exceptional quality grapes. There was a time massive production was king producing cheap rustic wines. Several southern French varieties (Grenache, Syrah and others) now exist in smaller quantities, being replaced with the internationally known Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Tempranillo. Indigenous grapes such as Bianco Gentile and Riminese are being rediscovered.
Although other varieties are authorized for use (many very obscure), two-thirds of AOC wines come from just three grapes (see map below for AOC locations):
- Sciaccarello – Primary grape in the south making reds slightly paler in color with typical aromas of red fruits/berries, spices, coffee, floral notes and a lively, peppery palate.
- Nielluccio – Primary grape in the north. Here aromas of red fruits, dry earth, violets, and minerals give way to a structured palate, sometimes delicate, sometimes forthright.
- Vermentino – Know as Rolle in southern France and a native of Italy, it produces lively, citrusy and spicy wines or a rounder, riper style of wine.
- Muscat à petits grains – Up north in AOC Muscat du Cap Corse, this grape is made into Vin Doux Natural, a special fortified sweet wine from low yielding vines.
Researching Corsica and its wines uncovered a reoccurring theme: complicated reds trying to make their mark, refreshing and dense whites, and rosé poised to be a top source for serious lovers of pink wine. I was surprised rosé accounts for 60+% of total production. But then again, a crisp fruity Rosé is just the paler side of red.
On the food side, it’s an island of small-scale artisan producers: charcuterie, cheese, olive oil, chestnut flour- the list goes on. Corsican fare pulls from the Italians and French with pasta, gnocchi and polenta as well as seafood, olive oil, and cheese. On the meat side, wild boar (sangulier in French) is abundant and delicious in ravioli! With deeply satisfying Mediterranean food, one needs good wine.
I picked up three intriguing bottles to try.
Domaine de Tenella, Clos Marc-Aurèle 2013, Corse Figari – 100% Vermentino
The Italian Vermentino I’ve tasted generally has vibrant acidity; it was lacking here, somewhat subdued along with its citrusy lemon peel aromas, giving way to a saline minerality. Had the wine been higher in acidity, the pairing- Pasta with Fried Lemons and Chili Flakes- would have worked but instead it slightly over powered the wine. Regardless, this is a solid “quaffer” from Domaine de Tenella. I can envision a glass by the seaside watching a summer sunset with friends.
Antoine Arena, Grotte Di Sole, Patrimonio Rouge 2013 – 100% Nielluccio
A slightly rustic, chewy and robust wine with red plum and tart cherry notes. Abundant but nicely integrated tannins. At just three years old, this could last another five. The lamb meatballs in a smokey tomato herb sauce was a pairing hit, the meat and tomato taming the tannins.
Muscat du Cap Corse, 100% Muscat à petits grains
Although this is a Vin Doux Natural, it doesn’t come across that sweet, having great acidity and balance. In general this type of Muscat imparts aromas of ripe apricots, almonds, orange marmalade, honey, and this one, white pepper. It’s flexible too nice before, with, or after a meal (we had it all three ways). Both sweet and savory dishes work including: salty, sweet, spicy or citrusy white meat, fish, blue cheese, fruit desserts, tarts and pies. I’m thinking it would be nice with flan too!
Jane from Always Ravenous brings together the best of both worlds with Corsican food and wine – French and Italian Influences.
Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla is working her magic in the kitchen with Corsican Fasgioli Incu Funghi + Domaine Petroni Corse Rouge.
Michelle from Rockin Red Blog is taking us on an adventure in Corsican Wine: A Metamorphosis of Island Culture.
Jeff from FoodWineClick! is bringing Corsica alive with Aromatic Fish and a Corsican.
Lauren from The Swirling Dervish gets our imagination running with The Mysteries of Corsica.
And Jill from L’occasion we are learning about Making Wine on an Island.
AOCs of CORSICA
- 1- Ajaccio
- 2- Patrimonio
- 3- Corse
- 3a- Corse Coteaux du Cap Corse
- 3b- Corse Calvi
- 3c- Corse Porto Vecchio
- 3d- Corse Figari
- 3e- Corse Sartène
- 4- Muscat du Cap Corse