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Rose Murray Brown on Corsican wines

We don't hear a lot about Corsican wines but merchants are starting to bring more and more imports to the UK

Published: August 31, 2015
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Holidaymakers returning from this beautiful rugged island having experienced the local wines, have found it hard to track them down in the UK, but now a select band of specialist merchants are focusing on importing Corsica’s new improved quality wines from the new generation of winemakers.

The burgeoning island wine estates produce a diverse range from herby, zesty dry white and pale dry rosés, to earthy reds and sweet dessert wines. The only deterrent for Corsica becoming a popular UK supermarket wine is the pricing. It’s hard to find an inexpensive Corsican wine over here – so expect to pay more than £8.

Corsica has its head in France, but its heart in Italy. It is 100 miles from Provence, but only half the distance (56 miles) from the Tuscan coast. Many grapes are of Italian origin.
With the Italian influence clearly seen in the grapes, nielluccio is the most planted red grape. This is basically the same grape as sangiovese – the main grape of Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino.
Sciacarello (known as mammolo in mainland Italy) is a much softer style grape, often blended with

When it comes to white grapes, vermentino holds sway in Corsica – also found in nearby Sardinia, Tuscany and Provence where it is known as rolle. Muscat is distinctive here – best in the northern peninsula – but the sweet wines are hard to find in the UK.

Tastewise, I find Corsican wines have an earthy feel to them, a bit like a cross between wines from Tuscany and Côtes du Rhone with a touch of rustic charm. So if you are a fan of either chianti or Chateauneuf du Pape – give Corsican whites and reds a go. If Provençal rosé is your usual tipple, you will find Corsica’s rosé similar with more fruit ripeness.

Eight AOC wine regions include the dramatically beautiful northern Cap Corse peninsula where distinctive vermentino and muscat are made on the schist soils. Just south of here is the most famous appellation, Patrimonio with its chalky soils ideal for nielluccio (aka sangiovese). Calvi on the west coast has more rocky granite slopes and then down in the southeast with lighter sandier soils you’ll find Sartene and Porto Vecchio – as well as Ajaccio and Figaro in the south west. If a wine comes from anywhere on the island, it is labelled Vin de Corse AOC.

The dynamic change and improvement in quality is down to some hard working individuals. The best known is Christian Imbert of Domaine Torraccia. He was one of the first to focus on quality winemaking here when he began in 1964 based in the south at Porto Vecchio. Now considered the godfather of Corsican wine, he runs the estate with his son, Marc.

Antoine Arena in northerly Patrimonio region is another pioneer. Other names to look for are Domaine Saparale – run by Philippe Farinelli in Sartene in the south-west of the island, who make very good vermentino whites – and Etienne Suzzoni’s wines from Clos Culombu in the north west. Also in the north is young newcomer Lina Pieretti. Thanks to these passionate winemakers, we can now taste the real promise and potential that this stunning wine island has to offer.

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Vin de Corse Blanc 2014 Domaine Saparale (£14.95, Yapp Bros, Alcohol 13 per cent
An enchanting floral aroma with a definite sage and spice note on the palate, this is made from vermentino.

Vin de Corse 2014 Domaine Culombu Blanc (£13.49, Les Caves de Pyrene,; L’Art du Vin, Dunfermline, Alcohol 12 per cent
This is a very refreshing crisp, dry, zesty white with a herby, savoury edge and a lightness to the palate.

Corse Calvi Fiumeseccu Blanc 2012 Domaine d’Alzipratu (£10.95, www.thewinesociety.comAlcohol 13.5 per cent
More body and richness with that distinctive herbiness from the vermentino grape. It has a nutty, honeysuckle bouquet.

The Society’s Corsican RosÉ 2014 Clos Culombu (£8.75, Alcohol 12.5 per cent
A blend of 40 per cent nielluccio, 40 per cent sciacarello with 20 per cent grenache – this is a great rosé at a very decent price. BEST VALUE BUY

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Coteaux du Cap Corse RosÉ 2014 Domaine Pieretti (£15.95, Alcohol 12 per cent
This is a pale dry rosé made by one of only two female vignerons on Corsica. It is a blend of nielluccio, grenache and alicante.

Patrimonio Morta Maio Rouge 2011 Domaine Antoine Arena (£22-£29,;; Alcohol 13.5 per cent
If you want to experience Corsican red at its best, try this mature, spicy, herby 100 per cent nielluccio from the famous Patrimonio appellation. STAR BUY

Vin de Corse Rouge 2012 Domaine Torraccia (£13.95, Alcohol 12.5 per cent
Earthy, herby, but a little light in body similar to a lighter Côtes du Rhone style, this organic red is made by Christian Imbert.

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Rose Murray Brown is one of only 323 Masters of Wine worldwide and is the only one to host wine courses and regular wine tastings in Scotland.

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