France: Corsica

Southern Corsica

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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Food specialities

The island’s cuisine, like Corsica itself, is somewhere between French and Italian, but certain aspects are distinctly Corsican.

Entrées: most Corsican meals start with either vegetable soup or the justifiably famous, delicious charcuterie (coppa, figatellu, lonzo, prizuttu, pâté, etc.) made from wild pigs that have fed on acorns and chestnuts. A young, red Niellucciu wine, served not too warm, will complement the soup. With the charcuterie try either a chilled rosé, based on the same Niellucciu grape, or a three-or-four-year-old Vermentinu white, with its dry, acidity to cut through the rich, fatty, cured meats, or even a well-structured, young Sciaccarellu red.

Seafood: fish and seafood, appropriately enough for a Mediterranean island, are readily available, but the price reflects the increasing scarcity of fish stocks. Two excellent choices are rouget (red mullet) and loup de mer (sea bream), while locally available marine crustaceans include langoustines (like a miniature lobster), langouste (spiny or rock lobsters), cigale de mer (slipper lobster), araignée de mer (spider crab), and homard (lobster). Try these with a young, lively Vermentinu or a well-chilled, dry, fruity rosé.

Meat dishes: the island’s most celebrated meat dish is wild boar. Civet de sanglier (wild boar stew) is often marinated in red wine and served with pasta or polenta. This rich, flavourful dish deserves a well-balanced Niellucciu red with good acidity and soft tannins. Other typical Corsican meat dishes include cabri de lait (suckling kid), veau aux olives (veal served with olives), locally shot game birds such as bécasse (woodcock) and perdrix (partridge), or a slow-cooked game stew called tianu. A young Sciaccarellu, fruity and spicy, with a light structure and served quite cool will go well with the lean meat in these game-bird dishes. You can also easily pair them with a well-chilled rosé.

Cheeses: most Corsican cheeses are from sheep or goat and either labelled fromage (cheese) or brocciu (a particular kind of ricotta cheese made from ewe or goat whey). Brocciu, which is made from late autumn until mid-summer - the period when the sheep and goats are producing milk - has enjoyed its own protected designation of origin since 1983. It’s used as a filling in many vegetable and meat dishes, as well as in fruit tarts. Brocciu can also be drained, salted and ripened like other cheeses. It’s then called brocciu passu, a creamy, fine-textured cheese with a strong, spicy taste. Finally, this versatile cheese can be served with a sprinkling of sugar and given a splash of a local eau-de-vie. Fromage de brebis (sheeps’ cheese), which includes pecurinu (like the hard Italian pecorino cheese), goes well with either Sciaccarellu or Niellucciu, or a combination of these two grapes. Less-mature cheeses will go best with younger wines, while a well-matured cheese demands a more evolved wine. Fromage de chèvre (goats’ cheese) goes best with a young white wine, a dry Vermentinu.

Desserts: frequently fresh fruit (clementines, oranges, apples, kiwis, or other Mediterranean fruits) is served. You will also find the above-mentioned brocciu, or fiadone, a soft cheese tart that is sometimes soaked in spirit and flambéed, or beignets, chestnut-flour doughnuts, sometimes stuffed with cheese (beignets au brocciu). Canistrelli are traditional sweet Corsican biscuits that draw their subtle flavours from the use of olive oil, white wine and, frequently, chestnut flour. All of the above go best with a well-chilled Muscat, a sweet, fruity, dessert wine.

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