We made our first wine buying foray to the Granite Isle back in the early noughties under the expert guidance of the author of 'The Rough Guide to Corsica' (and my then next-door neighbour) Dave Abram. 'Corsican Dave' knows every pass, pit stop and watering hole on the island and managed to locate wineries so far off the beaten track they had never been visited by any overseas wine buyers. We were smitten with some of the wines we tasted and could barely believe we had stumbled across such an embarrassment of riches. At Yapp Brothers, we have always believed in serendipitous discoveries and we returned from our inaugural trip having ordered far more wine than we had envisaged. Tellingly, many years later, we are still shipping from all of the same estates.
The Imbert family's Domaine de Torraccia, in the hills above Porto Vecchio, has been farmed organically from the outset in 1964 when founder Christian Imbert cleared 'Maquis' scrubland to plant his first vines. Today, their vineyards extend over 43 hectares and yield what are critically regarded as some of the island's finest wines. Their white wine is made from pure Vermentino and has inviting lemon balm and wild herb scents and a sensuous citrus-edged palate. The estate bottling of red is made from a blend of 50% Nielluccio (Sangiovese), 30% Grenache Noir and 10% each of Syrah and Sciacarello. It has a bouquet of hedgerow berries and a core of red and black fruit supported by supple tannins and makes a fine foil for the local figatelli sausages and prisuttu ham. In favourable vintages they also produce their flagship cuvée 'Oriu' – a blend of 80% Nielluccio and 20% Sciacarello. It is a dense, dark richly-fruited vin de garde that pairs well with game and can be cellared for at least a decade.
Over on the west side of the island in the hills below Sartène, Philippe Farinelli fashions wonderfully characterful wines at his Domaine Saparale. With hints of rosemary and bay, his popular white wine has a generous weight of orchard fruit and a long, dry elegant finish. A sibling rosé is blended from Nielluccio, Sciacarello and Vermentino and has a coral pink robe and delicate summer berry aromas and flavours. Completing the range is a wonderfully briary red made from 80% Nielluccio and 20% Sciacarello – it has a wealth of dark autumnal fruit over pitchy tannins that will support 3-5 years bottle age.
Another veteran from our inaugural buying trip is Lina Pieretti, whose eponymous domaine enjoys a stunning clifftop location on the eastern escarpment of the Cap Corse. Her Coteaux du Cap Corse rosé is made from a blend of Alicante Bouschet and Nielluccio and is redolent of raspberries and redcurrants underscored by fresh acidity. Lina also produces the local speciality: a golden, sweet Muscat du Cap Corse. With orange blossom aromas and a palate of honey and stewed peaches, it is traditionally drunk chilled as an aperitif but makes a magnificent accompaniment to fruit-based desserts.
A more recent discovery has been Lionel Wojcik's Domaine Paradella in the hills of Patrimonio. His red wine, a pure Nielluccio, is aged for 18 months in 'Radoux' oak barrels adding a touch of Bordelais sophistication to its wild Corsican roots. With complex myrtle and black fruit scents plus a palate of dark plum and damson with some sandalwood, spice and black pepper notes over a structure of fine-grained tannins, it is a terrific addition to our cache of Corsican gems. In 2019, Lionel added a white wine to his range made from pure Vermentino grown on free-draining clay and limestone soils. It is also raised in oak barrels and has a deep straw colour, inviting white peach scents and a mineral-edged, stone fruit palate with a long, elegant finish.