Saturday, May 2, 2015

France Unit 10b – Corsica

The following are my notes for studying the wines of Corsica. In these notes I’ll provide information about the viticultural history, topography, climate, soils, important red and white grapes and the AOCs as well as the IGPs of the regions. I also include notes on the wines tasted during in the French Wine Scholar class at the San Francisco Wine School (FWS – 09 Southwest and Corsica).
The Viticultural History of Corsica
The region was originally settled by by Phoceans traders in 570 BC who first planted grapes in what is now the commune of Aléria. From 1284-1755 Corsica was ruled by the Republic of Genoa after which it was briefly an independent Corsican Republic. Then in 1768 it was relinquished to France and came under its dominion. The following year it became the birthplace of future French Emperor Napoléon Bonaparte (1769 – 1821) who was born to a Corsican winemaking family in the capital city of Ajaccio. After the independence of Algeria from French rule, many Algerian Pieds-Noirs (people of French ancestry who lived in Algeria, North Africa) immigrated to Corsica and began planting vineyards.[1] Like the rest of France and Europe, Phyloxera devastated the vineyards when it arrived in 1887, which caused such an economic hardship that many people left the island. Then came World War I and World War II, which caused even further damage to the local economy. Between 1960 and 1976 the vineyard area in Corsica increased fourfold but the focus was on quantity, not quality wine. In the 1980s French subsidies provided for investment in new winemaking equipment and acres under vine and yields were reduced in order to improve quality.[2]
Geography of Corsica

Corsica is an island located 170 km (105 miles) southeast of mainland France, 11 km (7 miles) north of the island of Sardinia and 90 km (56 miles) west of Tuscany, Italy. Mountains make up 2/3 of the island, forming a single chain, which are preserved as a National Park. Monte Cinto is Corsica’s highest peak at 9,000 feet and is able to maintain snow year around. The average elevation of vineyards is around 300 meters (1000 feet) above sea level.[3] In 1975 it was divided into two departments: Haute-Corse (Upper Corsica) and Corse-du-Sud (Southern Corsica), with its regional capital in Ajaccio, the prefecture city of Corse-du-Sud. Bastia, the prefecture city of Haute-Corse, is the second-largest settlement in Corsica.
Climate of Corsica
Corsica has a Mediterranean climate, due to being surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea, but the island also experiences alpine influences. It is hotter and drier than mainland France The island experiences 2,750 hours of sunshine per year which provides the vines with abundant heat in the summer, but this is rendered less extreme by the presence of sea and mountains. Frosts are uncommon and spring weather arrives early in the year.
Soils of Corsica
There are several different soil types found in the wine growing regions of Corsica. In the northern region in the Cap Corse peninsula the soil is mainly schist. South of the Cap Corse, in the Patrimonio region, vineyards are planted on limestone-rich chalk and clay soil. Along the west coast, the soil contains a high concentration of granite. The vineyards on the east coast of the island between the cities of Solenzara and Bastia are planted mostly on marly sand.[4]
Viniculture of Corsica

Due to being closer to Italy than mainland France Corsica has more Italian grapes than French. The mountains in the center of the island are a national park so all of the vineyards are planted around the coastline, the best of which are on the western side of the Island. Corsica has about 3,866 ha (9,665 acres) under vine, approximately 2/3 of which are devoted to red grapes. Traditionally vineyards were pruned in Gobelet style but newer vines are being trained in single Guyot and Cordon de Royat in order to enable mechanical harvesting. The vineyards are prone to pest attacks, particularly cicadas.

AOC White Grapes of Corsica
Vermentino (also known as Rolle) is the most widely planted white grape (17%)
Codivarta, the name means “green tail.” It is also known are Codivarte Blanc and Codivertola Cudiverta.
Ugni Blanc
(also known as Rossola)
Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains Blanc
AOC Red Grapes of Corsica
Nielluccio (also known as Sangiovese in Italy), it represents 35% of Corica’s total vineyard acreage.
Sciacarello (also known as Mammolo in Italy), it represents 15% of Corica’s total vineyard acreage.
Barbarossa, the name is Italian for “red beard” and is named after was named after the red-bearded Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I.
IGP White Grapes of Corsica
Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains Blanc
IGP Red Grapes of Corsica
All red grapes approved for AOC wines plus 3 additional grapes:
Pinot Noir
Cabernet Sauvignon

Corsica Regional AOCs
Corsica has 4 Regional AOCs, with 5 additional sub-AOCs under Vin de Corse AOC which are similar to village AOCs in other French wine regions:
1. Vin de Corse AOC
White wines consists of mostly Vermentino (min. 80%), plus Ugni Blanc (Max. 25%), as well as Biancu Gentile, Codivarta, and Genovèse (combined max. 10%). Red and rosé wines are made Grenache (min. 50% combined), Nielluccio, and Sciaccarello (min. 1/3 combined Nielluccio and Sciaccarello). Rosé wines may also contain Vermentino (max. 20%), Carignan (max. 20%) plus combined Aleatico, Carcajolo Nero, and Morrastel (Minustello) (max. 20%) as well as Barbaroux (Barbarossa), Mourvèdre, Syrah, and Cinsault. Within the Vin de Corse AOC there are 5 sub-appellations:
1. Vins de Corse AOC
2. Coteaux du Cap Corse AOC
3. Calvi AOC
4. Sartene and Figari AOC
5. Porto Vecchio AOC
2. Ajaccio AOC
Previously established as Coteaux d'Ajaccio AOC in 1976; Ajaccio became a separate AOC in 1984. The wine growing area lies on sloping hillsides, rising up onto the highest slopes in Corsica averaging about 500 meters above sea level. Red and Rosé wines are made from Sciaccarello (min. 40%), Nielluccio, Barbaroux (Barbarossa), and Vermentino. Grenache, Cinsault, Carignan (max. 15%), plus Aleatico, Carcajolo Nero, and Morrastel (Minustello) (max. 10% combined) may be added. White wines are made from Vermentino (min. 80%) and Ugni Blanc plus Biancu Gentile, Codivarta, and Genovese (max. 10% combined).
3. Patrimonio AOC
Established as the first AOC in Corscia in 1968, it is named after a village in northern Corsica extends from the Gulf of Saint-Florent-west of Bastia to the south. It overlaps to some extent with the Muscat du Cap Corse AOC. The vineyards cover only about 400 hectares (988 acres) of planted on limestone soils. It predominantly produces red wines made from at Nielluccio (min. 90%) plus Grenache Noir, Sciacarello and Vermentino. Rosé wines are made from mostly Nielluccio (min. 70%) The white wine is made from 100% Vermentino.[5]
4. Muscat du Cap Corse AOC
Established as an AOC in 1997, it is dedicated to Vin Doux Naturel Blanc made from 100% Muscat à Petits Grains Blanc from vineyards planted on soils consisting primarily of schist and clay-limestone on the north peninsula of the island.[6]

Corsica IGPs
Corsica’s wine has two Indication Géographique Protégée (IGP) which are as follows:
L'Île-de-Beauté IGP
Most of Corsica’s wine production (60%) is classified as L'Île-de-Beauté IGP.
Mediterranée IGP
This denomination also encompasses Rhône, Provence and Corsican wines.

Wines Tasted
The following wines from Corsica were tasted in the French Wine Scholar class:
1. 2013 Domaine Maestracci “Clos Reginu” Corse Calvi Rouge

A clear red wine, dark rub in color of moderate intensity with a pink rim and moderate viscosity. On the nose it is clean with moderate intense aromas of fresh raspberries, ripe strawberries, it is “grapey” with notes of bubblegum, fresh cranberries and a hint of spice with dried herbs. On the palate it is bone dry, tart with moderate tannins, medium acidity and a moderate length finish. This wine sells for $15.
2. 2012 Clos Canarelli Corse Figari

A clear red wine, dark rub in color of moderate intensity with a pink rim and moderate viscosity. On the nose it has moderate intense aromas of dried cranberries, raspberry jam, ripe strawberries, with subtle aromas of dried herbs. On the palate it is dry with medium+ tannins and a moderate length finish. This wine sells for $45.

[1] Jancis Robinson (ed), The Oxford Companion to Wine (Third Edition) (Oxford University Press), 203-204.
[2] Julien Camus, Lisa M. Airey, Celine Camus (ed), French Wine Scholar Study Manual (French Wine Society), 277.
[3] Julien Camus, Lisa M. Airey, Celine Camus (ed), French Wine Scholar Study Manual (French Wine Society), 278.
[4] Jancis Robinson (ed), The Oxford Companion to Wine (Third Edition) (Oxford University Press), 203-204.
[6] Julien Camus, Lisa M. Airey, Celine Camus (ed), French Wine Scholar Study Manual (French Wine Society), 280.

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