Wine regions of Ajaccio, Sartène, Figari and Porto-Vecchio
By Tom Fiorina
This Guide was last updated on 18 July 2013
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The wine region around Corsica’s capital city of Ajaccio produces medium-bodied red and rosé wines made primarily from the native Sciaccarellu (40% required in the reds), which is the star grape variety here, and fruity white wines that are made primarily from at least 80% Vermentinu. Secondary red grape varieties include Niellucciu, Barbarossa, Grenache, Cinsault and Carignan, and, for whites, Ugni Blanc. The soil in this southwestern coastal area, which receives the most sunshine of any region in Corsica, is predominately decomposed granite.
Further south of Ajaccio, still along the coast, AC Corse-Sartène is centred around one of Corsica’s most scenic villages, Sartène. The wines and soil are similar to those of Ajaccio. The principle red grape varieties are Niellucciu, Sciaccarellu and Grenache, with secondary red varieties including Cinsault, Mourvèdre, Syrah and Barbarossa. For white wines, the main white grape is Vermentinu (75% minimum required), with Ugni Blanc being the secondary white grape variety used. This area is characterized by a true Mediterranean climate - occasional violent winds, overall hot temperatures, and summertime drought.
This is the southernmost appellation of the island. The climate - in terms of sun, wind and intermittent summertime drought - is similar to that of the Sartène region, but the soil differs considerably. There’s an abundance of well-weathered, sedimentary rocks with a high level of acidity. The soil varies from well-drained, porous alluvial deposits to areas of iron-rich, reddish soils, with the southernmost part of the appellation, close to the cliffs of Bonifacio, being more limestone-clay. Primary and secondary grape varieties are the same as for Sartène. However, in comparison to other southern Corsican appellations, there is more experimentation being done here, in terms of biodynamic viticulture, in winemaking technique (slightly longer maceration periods for reds), and in the use of barrel ageing.
This region on the southeastern coast of Corsica is very similar in climate (occasionally violent winds and hot, dry summers) and soil to Figari. Soil type differs, though, with traces of silica and iron-rich granite intermixed with the decomposed-granite soil that is found throughout the south of the island. Grape varieties are the same as in the Sartène and Figari appellations.
Vin de Corse, or simply Corse, is the principal Corsican appellation. It covers the entire island, but, because the centre of the island is very mountainous, most of the AC Corse vineyards are in coastal areas, principally on the eastern side of the island. The Vin de Corse denomination is often followed by the name of a village, such as, in the southern part of Corsica, Vin de Corse Figari, or Vin de Corse Sartène, or Vin de Corse Porto-Vecchio (see the ACs listed above, all of which have stricter regulations). Simple red and rosé Vin de Corse wines must include at least a 50% composition of Niellucciu, Sciaccarellu and Grenache. The white wines are composed primarily of Vermentinu.
The beautifully named IGP (formerly Vin de Pays) de l’Ile de Beauté wines, which consist of blends of native or typical Corsican grape varieties, such as Sciaccarellu and Niellucciu, with varieties from the French mainland, such as Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon, are increasing in number. Primarily, this is driven by economics, as the native, or typical, varieties tend to have lower yields and are more difficult to cultivate than the international varieties. To some, this is a step back 30 or 40 years into the past when native Corsican vines were replaced with high-yield varieties from abroad. To others, it is the only way to compete internationally.
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