Off The Beaten Path: Corsica

Coat tailing off of our Understanding AOC series and introducing the Off the Beaten Path series this April, we are taking a look at one of the lesser-known regions of France, the Island of Corsica.

The simplest way we can generalize Corsica for those unfamiliar with the island and their wine is to say: Imagine if France and Italy had a baby…that makes wine.

French winemakers in modern times under the AOC using Italian in origin grapes.

There are 9 AOC designations on the island, including the island-wide designation of Vin de Corse.  The AOCs span the coastal regions surrounding the perimeter of the island, with little inland real estate designated to them (listed from north to south):

  1. Muscat du Cap Corse (an AOC devoted to Muscat late harvest wines)
  2. Vin des Coteaux-du-Cap-Corse
  3. Patrimonio
  4. Vin de Corse Calvi
  5. Vin de Corse
  6. Ajaccio
  7. Vin de Corse Porto-Vecchio
  8. Vin de Corse Sartène
  9. Vin de Corse Figari

As you can see from the names of the regions alone, it is a blend of French and Italian through and through on Corsica.  To further illustrate that point, the largest grape growths on the island are Nielluccio (Sangiovese’s cousin or clone – the jury is still out on that point) , Sciacarello, and Vermentino.

With a modern blend of Italian & French influences, the roots run much deeper on this island.  There is at least 2,000 years of winemaking history including the Greeks, Romans, Phoenicians, and Genoese.  After the phylloxera epidemic almost wiped out the entirety of European wine, the resurgence of winemaking on the island occured in the 60s by way of Algerian colonialists who brought the techniques of Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia into the mix.

The island is the driest region of France with the lowest diurnal temperature swing of any French region and a diverse set of soils that changes as you circle the island’s perimeter.  It is safe to say that the wines of Corsica – reds, whites, and Rosé stylings – are unlike anything you will find on the French mainland, or anywhere in the world for that matter.

While the wines of Corsica have been on the rise in regards to quality and perception globally, you might still need to take to the internet to purchase a bottle as most retailers still don’t stock this region regularly on their shelves.

Premier French restaurants with awarded wine lists are another great place to look for the wines of Corsica – or at least inquire in case they can have them for a future visit.