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CORSICAN WINE

The beautiful French island covers a wine region that stretches around the coastline of Corsica. Also called the Island of Beauty, Corsica is a Mediterranean land bathed in sunshine with relief often tempered by the nearby sea. The local wines are influenced by the French mainland, but also by neighbouring Italy. The island is also rich in indigenous grape varieties. Discover with Vinatis the best Corsican appellations and wines.

Main Appellations

A THOUSAND-YEAR-OLD WINEGROWING HISTORY

For thousands of years, viticulture and wine have been an integral part of Corsica's history. Already existing in the wild, the vine gave sweet berries, which were particularly well liked. However, the domestication of this plant did not really begin until antiquity, precisely six centuries before Christ, with the arrival of the Greeks on Corsican territory. They set up a trading post called Alalia (Aleria today) on the eastern coast and brought with them the cultivation of the vine. A few centuries later, the Romans introduced a clear improvement in the way vines were grown, thus intensively developing viticulture in the region.

Throughout the Middle Ages, religious orders worked to perpetuate the cultivation of vines and the production of wine. Until the second half of the 19th century, the vineyard underwent a considerable expansion, while Corsican wines met with great success in the Mediterranean basin. The trade and export of wine was greatly facilitated by the development of means of transport. Towards the end of the 19th century, like all of the European vineyards, the Corsican vineyard was ravaged by powdery mildew, then by phylloxera. The decline of the local vineyard was finalized by the First World War. Thanks to the owners repatriated from Algeria, the vineyard has been gradually rebuilt since the 1960s.

ENDEMIC GRAPE VARIETIES

To produce the great diversity of Corsican wines, the winegrowers of this region rely on a wide range of grape varieties. In order to produce a large quantity of wine, high-yielding varieties were previously favoured. However, from the 1970s onwards, Corsican winegrowers began to work hard on quality winegrowing based on ancestral know-how. In addition, they are reintroducing indigenous grape varieties to create wines with a fully-fledged identity.

The Corsican vineyard is planted with more than 30 grape varieties, some of which are specific to the region. Among the red grape varieties are:

  • Sciaccarellu
  • Carcaghjòlu Nèru
  • Aleàticu
  • Minustellu
  • Barbaròssa

The list of white grape varieties includes:

  • Carcaghjòlu Biancu
  • Cudivèrta
  • Pagadèbiti
  • Biancone
  • Biancu Gentile
  • Genovese
  • Riminese

Other grape varieties are grown in various wine regions, notably in Italy, and are emblematic of Corsica. This is the case of the red grape variety Niellucciu and the white grape variety Vermentinu. Together with Sciaccarellu, these grape varieties are grown in all the island's AOCs. In addition, Muscat à petits grains is a variety grown in Corsica for the production of natural sweet wines.

AN ISLAND TERROIR

If the grape varieties used contribute to the uniqueness of Corsican wines, these nectars also owe their unique character to the geological diversity and specific climate of the region. Geologically, the region is divided into two entities with a different profile, created following the shaking of the Alpine system during the Mesozoic Era: Alpine Corsica and Ancient Corsica. A veritable mosaic of terroirs, Corsica is made up of different types of soil:

  • Granitic and volcanic soils are present in two thirds of the territory in the southern and western regions. Rich in silica, lye, alumina and calcium, these soils, where Sciaccarellu vines grow, give great finesse and intense floral aromas to the wines.
  • Alpine Corsica, in the east of the island, where the Castagniccia and Cap Corse are located, is covered with soils rich in calcium carbonate. This terroir is particularly suited to the cultivation of the grape variety Muscat.
  • In the Corte area, forming a furrow crossing the island in a north-west/south-east direction, the soils are made up of sedimentary rocks with a depression.
  • Stretching from Bastia to Solenzara is sedimentary plain, made up of recent sedimentary rocks. Rich in schists, these soils give structure and lightness to the wines.

Thanks to its location between the land and the mountains, the vineyard is also subject to a specific climate which gives character to the wines. The influence of these two elements is reflected in the mild temperatures, in all seasons, on the coastal zone, where the majority of the vines are grown. The island's climate is characterised by more than 2,800 hours of sunshine per year, which is beneficial for the ripening of the grapes. Corsica is also one of the rainiest areas in France with a particularly high level of rainfall, especially in the mountainous areas and in the Cap Corse region. The island also benefits from warm summers and mild winters, favourable to the development of the vine. Finally, the risks of fungal diseases are relatively reduced thanks to the cross influence of many winds: tramontane from the North-West, mistral from Provence and libeccio from Gibraltar.

RED WINE, WHITE WINE, ROSÉ WINE: WHAT ARE CORSICAN WINES?

Thanks to the diversity of soils and grape varieties cultivated in the region, Corsican wines come in a variety of colours and varieties, giving wine lovers a wide choice. Generally gourmet, rosé wines, whose flagship varieties are Niellucciu and Sciaccarellu, account for around 70% of Corsican wine production.

The cuvées of this colour are also much better known than the others. Appreciated for their good ageing potential, red wines represent about 17% of the production. Corsican wines also come in dry white and sweet white wines.

CORSICAN WINES: APPELLATIONS

The Corsican vineyard has nine AOCs ("Appellations d'Origine Contrôlée"), divided into different sub-categories: one "Régionale" appellation, two "Cru" appellations, five "Villages" appellations and one "Vin Doux Naturel" appellation. In addition, about half of the total production of Corsican wines bears the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) designation.

Finally, winegrowers who do not wish to comply with the constraints of a specification opt for the Vin Sans Indication Géographique (VSIG) qualification. Wines classified under this designation are however no less qualitative than a PGI or PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) wine.

AJACCIO AOC (CRU)


The Ajaccio AOC, which has the "Cru" appellation, produces exceptional rosé, red and white wines in the area of Corsica Cristalline. Ranked among the island's most famous appellations, it covers more than 250 hectares or so. The Sciaccarellu grape variety flourishes fully on the terroirs of the Ajaccio PDO, including red wines with intense aromas and which reveal a beautiful power.

CORSE AOC (REGIONAL APPELLATION)


The only "Régionale" type appellation, the Corse AOC has the largest production area on the island, stretching along the entire eastern coast, between Bastia and Solenzara. Leaning against the rocky ridges, the vineyard, with its mineral character, produces red wines combining power and finesse. Delicately fruity, the rosé wines also offer spiced notes. The Corse AOC also produces spiced and floral white wines.

CORSE CALVI AOC (VILLAGES)


Constituting one of the oldest terroirs in Corsica, the Corse Calvi AOC is located in Balagne, between Ile Rousse and Calvi. Sheltered by their mountain range, the hillsides where the AOP vines grow are subject to a temperate climate and strong winds, favouring the full expression of the plants. This Villages appellation is renowned for its highly aromatic white wines with delicious citrus notes. Best drunk young, the rosé wines are known for their clarity. Finally, this AOC also produces full-bodied red wines with a strong character.

CORSE FIGARI AOC (VILLAGES)


Representing without doubt the oldest vineyard in Corsica, the Figari Corse AOC saw the first vines appear as early as the 5th century BC. This vineyard, the southernmost and sunniest in France, is subject to a harsh climate and swept by powerful winds, giving vigorous vines. Typically Corsican, the grape varieties give deep coloured red wines with structured notes. The rosé wines of Corse Figari AOC are lively and colourful. As for the white wines of the appellation, they reveal floral aromas and exotic notes.

CORSE SARTÈNE AOC (VILLAGES)


This AOC is made up of two distinct areas: the Tizzano region and the Ortolo Valley. Covering an area of over 200 hectares, the area of this Villages appellation is planted with authentic Corsican grape varieties. Benefiting from mild temperatures, the vines grow on predominantly granitic soils, producing light and fruity white and rosé wines. This PDO also produces crisp, supple red wines with spiced notes.

CORSE PORTO-VECCHIO AOC (VILLAGES)


On this arid land plunging towards the sea and swept by strong winds, the vines have developed a remarkable robustness. Set between a rocky coastline and wooded areas, this appellation faces the rising sun. Combined with Grenache, the Niellucciu and Sciaccarellu grape varieties produce red wines combining roundness and elegance. Full of freshness, the rosé wines are fine and aromatic. Made from the Vermentinu grape variety, the white wines are dry and fruity.

CORSE COTEAUX DU CAP CORSE AOC (VILLAGES)


Set on soaring plateaus on the long, narrow peninsula of Cap Corse, this AOC has a terroir consisting mainly of crystalline limestone soils and green rocks. Benefiting from a typically Mediterranean climate, the vines are subjected to hot summers and mild winters; climatic conditions that are particularly conducive to the cultivation of the Vermentinu grape variety. This appellation is renowned for its white wines combining aromatic finesse, floral notes and a mineral finish.

MUSCAT DU CAP CORSE AOC (VIN DOUX NATUREL)


Suspended on vertiginous terraces, facing the sea, the Muscat du Cap Corse AOC vineyard is anchored on a clay and limestone soil. These geographical and geological characteristics give a particularly delicate character to the Muscat à petits grains grapes. This appellation produces soft and delicate wines with a colour ranging from light golden to amber. Very aromatic, complex and elegant, these wines reveal scents of candied fruit, citrus zest and sometimes beeswax.

PATRIMONIO AOC (CRU)


Probably the most famous of the Corsican wine appellations, the Patrimonio AOC of the "Cru" type is the first to have been nationally recognised. Anchored in the Cap Corse stake, the appellation area spreads over a vast expanse of plains, hills and valleys overlooking the Gulf of Saint-Florent. Enjoying a western exposure, the vineyard benefits from a microclimate and is preserved from the winds. The vines here grow on granitic or schistose soils. Under this appellation, the Niellucciu grape variety produces red wines that are full-bodied, powerful and persistent on the palate. Dominated by the Vermentinu grape variety, the white wines are characterised by beautiful floral notes. This PDO also produces rosé wines with fruity notes.

DARE TO TRY WINES FROM CORSICA?


With its unique terroir and multitude of grape varieties combined with viticultural techniques inherited from many generations of winemakers, the wines produced on Corsica offer exceptional characteristics. Whether you want to discover some of the best rosé wines in the world, excellent red wines and white wines with various taste profiles and excellent ageing potential, Corsican wines are a must. Nectars that lend themselves wonderfully to various food and wine pairings, especially with Corsican charcuterie and cheeses!

For those who want to see for themselves, read our article "Dare to try wines from Corsica?" !

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