- Sarah O'Kelley
Corsica? Yes, Corsica!
If you have not ventured to this island off the coast of France in your wine journey then let’s just say -- it’s time! The quality of wines that we receive from Corsica is really outstanding (and at all price points). I was inspired to write this column when I recently opened a bottle of Vaccelli Blanc that totally blew my mind (Vermentino that tasted of sea salt and peaches)!
But before we dig into the wines let’s have just a touch of history, and click here for a great map of the island.
Firstly, Corsica’s history goes way, way back. Ancient Greek historian Herodotus described a Phoenecian civilization there in the 6th century BCE?! More recently (think 700s CE, haha) it was under the control of Charlemagne and part of the Holy Roman Empire before coming under the rule of two city states (Pisa and Genoa) that we now recognize as part of modern day Italy. The French gained control in 1768 and have mostly ruled the island since then. However, there have been many clamors for independence over the years, and natives describe themselves as Corsican first, French second.
While modern history of Corsica is dominated by the French story, the grapes are largely of Italian providence. Here you find the iconic Italian red grape Sangiovese (but called Nielluccio), and the Italian white grape Vermentino rules supreme for “Corse Blanc”. (You will also find plantings of a lesser known Italian red grape Mammolo that is called Sciaccarello on Corsica.)
The climate is not Mediterranean (perhaps surprising as it is after all surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea) but rather Maritime and in some more protected spots continental. The soils are varied -- ranging from limestone up in the northern sub-region of Patrimonio to sandstone and volcanic in the center to granite in the south.
This mix of ideal climates and soil types seems like a magical combination for creating a renowned wine region, but in reality, it’s only in the last 50-ish years that there’s been a real revolution of serious winemaking.
We are lucky to have wines from some of the most acclaimed Corsican producers in the shop I manage and from a variety of regions. See below for some of my faves! Stop by if you live in Charleston or ask your own local wine shop to source some Corsican deliciousness.
Northern Corsica (Patrimonio)
Clos Signadore Patrimonio Blanc $40 (Vermentino grape)
Clos Signadore $63 (Nielluccio grape -- 100 year old vines!)
These are the most powerful wines of this line up!
Fornelli Blanc $20 (Vermentino grape)
Fornelli La Robe D’Ange Rouge $24 (Sciaccarello grape)
These are the most approachable wines of the lineup!
Southern Corsica (Ajaccio)
Vaccelli Blanc $45 (Vermentino grape)
Vaccelli Rose $37 (Sciaccarello grape)
These wines are supremely elegant!