The best Corsica wines have only started to escape the confines of the Mediterranean island, winning awards and introducing themselves to an international audience after a history of viticulture dating back 2,000 years
Most wines produced in the sun-kissed isle bathed in crystal clear waters off the coasts of Provence in France and Tuscany in Italy are still not exported, but the best Corsica wines are gaining a reputation further afield after determined efforts by the latest generation of winemakers. Chief among these is Christian Imbert, who started the Torraccia vineyards from nothing over 50 years and is considered the father of Corsican wine. He has been instrumental in raising standards while remaining loyal to the island’s native grapes.
While there are many grape varieties grown in vineyards that cluster along the edges of the island, only three are predominantly used in the production of the best Corsica wines, which include elegant reds, full-bodied roses, some sweet muscats and fewer Mediterranean style white wines. These grapes reflect the island’s Italian influences, with classic white Vermentino and red Sangiovese (known locally as Rolle and Nielluccio respectively) dominating the vineyards, although the local Sciacarello red grape that’s unique to the island also plays a part.
Since Corsica is under French rule, its classification system is based on strict Appellation d’origine controlee (AOC) guidelines – giving rise to nine AOCs around the island, each with their own individual personality. There is also an all-encompassing vin de pays classification Vin de Pays de l'Île de Beauté, which makes up two-thirds of the island’s entire wine production. The best Corsica wines, however, come from AOC appellations, with Patrimonio in the north and Ajaccio to the southwest generally regarded as home to the island’s most renowned vineyards and wineries.
Patrimonio has the highest number of wine producers due the individual qualities of its clay and limestone soils, which create a range of full-bodied and fruit-laden reds, roses and white wines that are distinctive from the rest of the island. It is also especially popular with visitors, not least because of the region’s closeness to some sensational beaches. By contrast, the granite soils in Ajaccio complement the production of medium bodied red and rose wines that are dominated by the local Sciaccarello grape, which are grown in the highest altitude vineyards in France at almost 600 meters above sea level
As well as boasting some of the best Corsica wines, Ajaccio is also renowned as the birthplace of former French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, and his early family home has been transformed into a museum in the town.
Elsewhere, several sub-regions that fall under the enveloping Vin de Corse appellation in the south have been making great strides in winemaking. These include Coteaux du Cap Corse, Calvi, Figari, Porto Vecchio and Sartene, all of which are almost entirely devoted to red and rose styles. And the island also sweet white dessert wines, produced in the vin doux naturel style under the title Muscat du Cap Corse.
At Wine Paths, our local expert can organise exclusive tastings of the best Corsica wines, which can include guided tours of vineyards, luxury stays, fine dining experiences and some unique activities. Among these is the opportunity to marvel at spectacular Mediterranean views from the skies during our private flight and Corsica wine tour. After being flown over the island, guests are given a guided tour of leading vineyards that includes sampling local artisanal products, such as delicious goat cheese from the mountains, before a private tasting with a Corsican winemaker accompanied by a gourmet meal.
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