THE WINES OF CORSICA

March 29, 2019 by French Corner Cellars

Corsica. A French wine region that for many, is as mysterious as it is beautiful. It is the most mountainous area in the Mediterranean, with the average height being 300m above sea level. With a climate that is much more warm and dry than the mainland, this region has one of the most hospitable climates for wine growers. While the region does see a lot of strong winds, it is also known for having very little rain during the autumn months. The result is an enviable position of having many rot-free seasons. The soil is surprisingly varied – to the North, limestone & clay, the South - mostly Granite, and in the Central areas, Volcanic soil and Sandstone.

With only a 7-mile distance from Sardinia, the influence of Italian winemaking is just as strong as the French, with Indigenous grapes have a genetic resemblance to both Italian and French varietals.

Common wines that you find use indigenous grapes such as Nielluccio (Sangiovese) in the North, Sciaccarellu (Mammolo) aka. Corsican Pinot Noir, in the South, and of course, Vermentino well…everywhere. The latter has distinct difference from mainland representations, as well as regional distinctions in Corsica – it can be light, smoky, and austere in the North, rich, tangy, and minerally in the central areas, and bright, precise, with stony minerality in the South.

Corsica’s viticultural history began with colonial Greek traders from Phocaea in 570 BC (now the commune of Aleria), after Massalia (modern-day Marseille) was founded thirty years earlier. The 18th century (1768 to be exact) found the region come under French control. But it wasn’t until 1962 that the local production increased enough to begin a serious wine industry - this was also the year that Algeria found independence from French rule, leading to a mass exodus of Algerian-born French descendants into the region.

And now, almost sixty years later, modern-day Corsica has seen a resurgence of the old, nearly lost indigenous grape varieties. Over the last 4 decades or so, leading vignerons have made it a priority to recover these grapes. So, when you are on the hunt, keep an eye out for rare wines made with Riminese, Genovese, Barbarossa, Carcaghjolu, Biancu Gentile, and Codivarta.