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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In the 1960s and 1970s, following the arrival of repatriated colonists from former French colonies in North Africa, Corsican wine had a terrible reputation. Indigenous Corsican grape vines were replaced with high-yield grape varieties from the south of France, including Grenache, Alicant Bouchet, Carignan and Cinsault. Huge amounts of sugar were imported to the island during this period, as winemakers on the fertile eastern plain of the island used chaptalization to increase the sugar content of these wines.
The outlawing of chaptalization in Corsica in 1972, and the uprooting of two-thirds of the vines between the mid-1970s and 1990, dramatically altered the island’s wine industry. The intense insularity of Corsicans, partly geographical (a mountainous island limits access in two ways) and partly historical (repeated invasions by outsiders), and the pride in Corsica of all things Corsican has worked in its favour as typicity has become a desired trait in wines. A generational change has also led winemakers there to recognize the unique attributes of the island’s terroir, climate and native grape varieties. Their efforts to improve the quality of the island’s wine are now paying off.
Corsican red wines, especially made from Sciaccarellu grown on granitic soil, can offer Old World finesse, peppery flavours and an aromatic spectrum that runs from almonds, red fruits, herbs and leather. Their meaty palate (particularly in Corse-Porto-Vecchio AC) is amazing, especially when viewed against the pale, ruby hue that is their typical colour. Also typical is good presence and length, along with mouth-coating, powdery tannins. There is increasing use of barrel ageing of reds intended to be kept for several years and certain examples, especially the deep-coloured and well-structured wines from Corse-Figari AC can age for up to 10-15 years. On the other hand, the simple Vin de Pays reds are fruity, light and easy-to-drink, designed for early consumption.
The Vermentinu grape, when grown on decomposed granite, can produce wines of deep mineral character and personality especially from the Corse-Figari AC. Corse-Porto-Vecchio AC whites can be very floral with peach and apricot flavours. The Corsican maquis scrubland adds its own subtle herbal accents to these straw-yellow-coloured, white wines, along with faint lemon, camomile and crisp apple fragrances. The best are rich and smooth, with a silky texture and a long, caressing finish, but you will find many that are simply fresh, light and fruity.
Rosé wines made from 100% Sciaccarellu are a brilliant, onion-skin pink. The nose is of small, red fruit, with pepper notes typical of this grape variety. They have a refreshing acidity that is balanced by a creaminess that can be similar to rosé wines from Bandol. Interesting rosé wines, made with blends of Niellucciu, Sciaccarellu, Grenache Noir and Cinsaut grapes, are made in Ajaccio, Porto-Vecchio and Sartène, the latter producing rosés of the darkest colour.
Naturally-sweet wines (Vin Doux Naturels as you find in the south of France), such as the Clos d’Alzeto Le Blanc Doux, and the fortified dessert wines from Domaine Fiumicicoli can be found in Southern Corsica, but these are mostly about giving consumers a full range of wines. The Muscat du Cap Corse, an excellent sweet wine made from Muscat à Petits Grains, is produced in the north of the island.
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