The granite island of Corsica boasts a free-draining hilly topography and sun-kissed Mediterranean climate is are ideally suited to viticulture yet sadly its wines are all too often overlooked by critics and consumers. This is partly due to large numbers of visiting tourists absolving the need to establish export-markets, but also due to a general ignorance about how good the best wines are. The silver lining to that cloud is that they remain remarkably good value despite the additional costs of shipping via mainland France.
We made our first buying trip to Corsica in 2005 and have shipped increasing volumes since then while our retaining undimmed enthusiasm. The Imbert family's Domaine de Torraccia, in the hills above Porto-Vecchio, has proved an unfailingly reliable source of characterful, organic wines with a strong sense of terroir. Their white, from pure Vermentino, has appealing wild herb aromas and a zesty, citrus-edged palate, which lends it well to the plentiful local seafood. A rosé stablemate comes from a blend of Corsican curious 'Nielluccio' and 'Sciacarello' along with more mainstream Cinsault and Grenache. It has a lovely coral pink colour and delicate crushed berry scents and flavours so is perfect for al fresco imbibing. The Imbert's principal red deploys the same grapes but switches Cinsault for Syrah. It has a briary bouquet and a palate of dark autumnal fruit with peppery undertones and supple tannins. A flagship red bottling, called 'Oriu' (meaning 'cache') is made from 80% Nielluccio and 20% Sciacarello. It is a dense, concentrated and full-bodied vin de garde that requires 5 years bottle age for its tannins to soften and its full potential to be revealed.
On the other side of the island at Sartène, Philippe Farinelli's 'Domaine Saparale' is another exemplary estate. His scrub-scented white Vermentino has a lovely resinous texture and an elegant, dry finish. A rosé, blended from Sciacarello, Nielluccio and Vermentino, is redolent of rosehips and redcurrants and is offset by a palate-cleansing acidity. Completing the line-up is a redoubtable red with aromas of myrtle and thyme and a darkly-fruited, mineral-streaked palate. It makes a fine foil for figatelli and fitonu sausages and cellars well for 3-5 years.
Up on the eastern flank of the Cap Corse promontory at Luri, Lina Pieretti makes one of Corsica's most revered vinous treasures: Muscat du Cap Corse. It is a golden hued Vin Doux Naturel with a bouquet of orange blossom and a richly-honeyed peach palate. It is traditionally served as a pre-prandial bonne bouche but also makes a versatile partner to fruit-based desserts. Lina also makes a delicious Coteaux du Cap Corse rosé from a blend of Nielluccio, Grenache Noir and Alicanté. It has an attractive 'wild salmon' robe, subtle raspberry scents and a racy summer berry palate with a crisp, clean finish. A full-bodied rouge combines around 30% of southern French staple Grenache Noir with the Corsican Nielluccio, a close relation to Tuscan Sangiovese. The resulting cuvée is coloured a deep violet that belies an intense spicy red-fruit nose backed up by garrigue herbiness, an almost saline acidity and a lengthy finish.
A recent serendipitous discovery has been the wine of Domaine Paradella in Poggio d'Oletta in Patrimonio. Despite being made from Nielluccio in hills below Mont di Tuda, it's a wine with a strong Bordelais influence as patron Lionel Wojcik is great friends with Louis Mitjavile of Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Château Le Tertre Rôteboeuf, so deploys the same 'Radoux' oak barrels and mechanised cellar 'misting' system as they do. It has an 18 month élevage before blending and bottling giving the finished wine cinnamon, pepper and truffle aromas and a rich palate of dark autumnal fruit with fine-grained tannins and balanced acidity. It has an untamed Corsican quality beneath its glossy veneer and will cellar well for a decade, as its 'Vis Temporis' label suggests.