A mini guide to the excellent, yet largely little known, wines of Corsica.
The island of Corsica produces a wide range of wonderful wines, due to the variety of both soil types and altitudes, as well as the sea breezes that soften the sun’s heat near the coast.
What’s more, with mild winters and long hot summers, Corsica has less rain and more sunshine than anywhere on mainland France; the growing season is long and the typical harvesting conditions are excellent. There are so many reasons to visit Corsica and its wines are certainly one of them! Paired with the great flavours of the island, you will find a taste sensation.
Up until recently, Corsican wines were little known beyond its shores, in part due to very little being exported. This is slowly changing, and the latest generation of wine producers is greatly improving the quality of the island’s wine, several award-winners are now available.
While there are a large variety of grapes grown on the island, the three traditional varieties are, Nielluccio (red grape) and Vermentino (white grape), both reflecting the island’s Italian heritage, while last but not least, there is the red Sciacarello, which is unique to the island of Corsica.
Traditionally, the two main regions which were considered the home of some of Corsica’s finest wines were Ajaccio in the south-west and Patrimonio in the north. The Route de Patriomonio can be picked up from St Florent and is a great route to follow if you are staying in the north east region. Perhaps slightly less known is the La Balagne region, one vineyard that stands out is Domaine Orsini, which is located just below Calvi and is a very traditional vineyard.
The majority of which are medium-bodied spicy reds and rosés were granted AOC status in 1984. The Sciaccarello grape, which is most at home on the granite soils found here, predominates, but a host of other varieties are also featured.
Pascal Albertini has built a state-of-the-art winery. These vineyards have been tended by his family since 1800, growing mainly the traditional Sciaccarellu red and Vermentino white grapes. At almost 600m, these are the highest vineyards in Corsica and are well worth a visit for the spectacular scenery as well as for the great wines.
Located on the southern end of the Cap Corse peninsula where the soils are composed of chalky clays and limestone, making them distinct from the rest of the island. This is one of the most active wine-producing areas of the island, where the limestone slopes bring out the true character of Nielluccio beautifully.
South of Patrimonio, but still in the north of the island, is the Vin de Corse Calvi area, where around half the wines produced are rosés. There are also many red wines produced, commonly using a much larger variety of grapes than you’ll find in either Ajaccio or Patrimonio.
In recent years, wines from more southerly domains have been growing in reputation, namely those of the Vin de Corse Sartène, Figari and Porto Vecchio appellations. As found around Patrimonio, these wine areas predominately produce rosés, with some reds and fewer whites. The primary grape varieties for the reds and rosés are Grenache, Nielluccio and Sciaccarello.
Originally founded in the 19th century, Domaine Saparale, is a 1,000-hectare estate which had been abandoned for more than 60 years. When Phillippe Fairnelli inherited the land, in 1995, the vineyards were re-born and now produce some of the finest wines in the area.
Visits are by appointment only by calling (+33) 04 95 77 15 52 or emailing email@example.com. Further information can be found on their website Saparale.com.
Domaine de Torraccia
Whilst there are many excellent domains to visit in Corsica, it is Christian Imbert, who started the Torraccia vineyards from scratch some 50 years ago, who is considered the father of modern Corsican wines. He was instrumental in improving the wines of Corsica and a fervent exponent of the traditional grapes, preserving the typicity of the Nielluccio, Sciacarello and Vermentino wines with passion in his belief that they were the only way forward for Corsican wines. His vineyards, now run by his son Marc, are still predominately using these traditional varieties and producing wine renowned for ageing well.
Visitors are welcome without an appointment but guided tours can only be arranged if booked in advance by calling (+33) 04 95 71 43 50 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Further information can be found on their website Domaine-de-Torraccia.com.
With many wonderful vineyards to visit, that are producing some excellent wines, set in spectacular landscapes and with no VAT to pay, a holiday in Corsica is a great choice for any wine-lover.
Photography courtesy of Domaine Saparale.