Corsican Wine

Corsican Wine

Much like Provence, Corsica enjoys a huge influx of summer tourists who are happy to soak up prodigious volumes of its prolific 'Île de Beauté' wines and aren't too qualitatively critical. Consequently, the island's superior bottlings from its eight Appellations Contrôlée tend to get over-looked (which is an injustice) although it does mean they are great value.

We first visited the Imbert family at Domaine de Torraccia with travel writer and Corsican expert Dave Abram back in 2005 and it was immediately apparent we'd struck vinous gold ahead of any of our competitors. Pioneering patron Christian Imbert recognised the viticultural potential of the scrubland above Porto Vecchio and started planting an organic vineyard in 1966. The ensuing wines are now amongst the most highly-regarded on the island. A herb-scented white wine is made from pure Vermentino and has a savoury palate of russet apples with hints of fennel and rosemary. The Domaine de Torraccia rouge is blended from 50% Nielluccio, along with 30% Grenache and 10% each of Syrah and Sciacarello. It has lovely hedgerow berry aromas and flavours with earthy undertones and supple tannins. Their flagship 'Cuvée Oriu' is made from 80% Nielluccio and 20% Sciacarello that are raised in concrete vats for 3 years before blending and bottling. It is a complex vin de garde that will readily support 10 years bottle-age and is ideally-suited to local dishes of wild boar and venison.

In the hills on the western side of the island below Sartène, Philppe Farinelli also produces characterful wines with a strong sense of terroir. His Domaine Saparale blanc is made from 100% Vermentino and has wild flower aromas and a sensuous palate of white orchard fruit with a dry, mineral-edged finish. Philippe's pale, coral-pink rosé is blended from Sciacarello, Vermentino and Nielluccio and is redolent of ripe summer berries so is ideal for al fresco imbibing. Completing his range is a delightfully pitchy red made from 80% Nielluccio and 20% Sciacarello that has a complex palate of briary fruit over a framework of fine-grained tannins.

A more recent discovery is Lionel Wojcik's pure Nielluccio from Domaine Paradella in the hills of Patrimonio. It is aged for 18 months in top of the range 'Radoux' barrels adding a touch of Bordelais sophistication to its Corsican roots. The finished wine has a complex bouquet of cinnamon, myrtle and black pepper and a rich black fruit palate supported by a firm tannic structure. It merits decanting and will cellar well for (at least) a decade.

To the north of the island on the Cap Corse promontory Lina Pieretti fashions some fantastic wines from a vineyard that enjoys enviable elevation, amazing light levels and superb sea views. Her Coteaux du Cap Corse is an enticing, zesty rosé made from a blend of Alicante, Grenache and Nielluccio. It has subtle raspberry and redcurrant flavours and a pleasantly persistent palate. Not to be overlooked is Lina's decadent, sweet Muscat du Cap Corse. This golden-hued fortified wine has alluring orange blossom scents and a luscious palate of honey, pineapple and stewed apricots. It makes for a restorative bonne bouche or partner to fruit-based desserts.

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Quick and Easy Guide to Corsican wine

Impress your dinner guests with expert knowledge of the Granite Island.

Corsicans are fiercely proud of their gastronomic and viticultural heritage and want visitors to the Granite Isle to enjoy their sublime seafood, world-class charcuterie, pungent artisanal cheeses and good quality wines.

Area Under Vine:
3,000 hectares.

Key AOCs:
Patrimonio, Ajaccio, Vin de Corse Porto Vecchio, Muscat de Cap Corse, IGP Ile de Beauté

Principal grapes:
Sciacerello, Nielluccio (related to Sangiovese), Vermentino (aka Malvoisie or Rolle).

Notable domaines:
Torraccia, Leccia, Arena, Canarelli, Saparale, Pieretti, Nicrosi.

Local delicacies:
Oursin (sea urchins), figatelli (chestnut-smoked sausage), lonzu (cured ham), brocciu (goat or sheep’s cheese).

Restaurants we like:
Le Rouf in St-Marie-Porto-Vecchio, Stella d’Oro in Bonifacio (for aubergine à la bonifacienne), le 3.2 on the beach at Santa Julia.

Famous people from the region:
Pascal Paoli, Napoleon.

Things to do:
Laze on sandy beaches in the south; hike the GR20; sail around the island; hunt wild boar; watch Le Grand Départ 2013; visit the citadels of Bonifacio & Calvi; listen to polyphonic chanting in Sartène.

Things not to do:
Burst into a rendition of ‘La Marseillaise’ in a bar. Start a vendetta.

Useful local sayings:
"At the end of many disasters, there’s usually an Italian."

Further reading & viewing:
Yapp blogs, The Honourable Bandit - A Walk across Corsica, Granite Island: A Portrait of Corsica.

Bien classique:
Vin de Corse Sartène: Domaine Saparale rouge.

Autre chose:
Muscat du Cap Corse: Domaine Pieretti.