|A Table A Corse|
Currently designated as one of the 27 régions of France, although it is a collectivité territoriale by law, Corsica is a beautiful mountainous Mediterranean island, located west of Italy, southeast of France, and north of the island of Sardinia. It's had a long and turbulent history. The earliest Corisican inhabitants have been traced to about 3,000 BC -- they left behind impressive standing stones with staring faces. Later it was settled by Phocaean Greeks (according to Herodotus, the first Greeks to make long sea voyages), shortly after they founded Marseille, some of whom were winemakers who cultivated vines. However, it was sometime during the Middle Ages, apparently, when Corsica was under the rule of the city of Pisa, and later the Republic of Genoa, that Sangiovese was introduced to the island. Over the centuries, Sangiovese has evolved into its unique Corsican version of the varietal: Niellucciu.
LostWhen Emilia & I visited the Maestraccis, we got lost driving around the majestic Monte Grossu mountain. It was one of those times when getting lost was fun. There were spectacular views to observe and hairpin turns to navigate. But we were also running late for lunch and had a plane to catch later that afternoon!Domaine Maestracci is located high in the Monte Grossu foothills, inland from Calvi, in the granite plateau of Reginu, in a microclimate called U Vinu di E Prove – the wine of the Prove. Its unique exposition results in hot and dry daytime temperatures with high-altitude cool nights, all within a short distance from the sea and regular maritime winds. The plateau has been continuously used for vine- and olive- growing for centuries. It was the site of a major olive-pressing mill that supplied a large part of France with its olive oil. In 1945, when the owner of the olive oil mill packed up and moved his operation to colonial in search of bigger land and greater profits, Roger Maestracci saw a golden opportunity and moved in. The departing olive oil baron left behind a massive concrete structure with walls so thick the air inside stayed cool year round. Originally used to house the mill and the pressed oil, Roger adapted the structure for old wooden casks and concrete tanks and set about replanting vines on the property. Within a few years the domaine established a firm reputation in the area. When it came time for Roger to retire in the early 1980s, he passed along the reigns of the domaine to his son-in-law, Michel Raoust, who still runs the domaine today, along with his daughter, Camille-Anaïs. Algeria
Michel & Camille-Anais RaoustDOMAINE MAESTRACCI Corse Calvi Blanc ‘E Prove’ Rouge 2007The wines he makes are quintessential Mediterranean food wines. Michel allows the red extended time to age and mellow before release. E Prove Rouge is comprised of about 35% Niellucciu, 35% Grenache, 15% Sciarcarellu and 15% Syrah. It’s fermented for one year in stainless steel and then raised for another year in large oak barrels (foudres). The wine has aromas of small red berries, spices, liquorice, an ample mouthfeel, with a good balanced, silky dose of tannins. There’s notes of pepper, and hints of blue and black berries, and a touch of menthol.For lunch, the Maestraccis served us perfectly grilled zucchini & lamb. Simple farmhouse cooking at its best!
When you’re in the capital of Corsica, the colorful, picturesque city of Ajaccio, you can’t get very far without seeing the name Abbatucci. Streets, monuments, and plazas carry the name. General Jean-Charles Abbatucci from Ajaccio was a hero of the French Revolution and his comrade-in-arms was another local hero, Napoléon Bonaparte. Step into a wine bar or a restaurant there, and chances are you'll be poured a glass of Domaine Abbatucci. The domaine is run by Jean-Charles Abbatucci, a direct descendant of the General, who has become a local hero of another kind—for providing the local populace with its most sought-after libation.Corsicans are proud defenders of their traditions and environment, and with Abbatucci they indulge guilt-free. His wines are certified biodynamic – he follows even the most far-out biodynamic practices to the letter. On his rather large estate south of Ajaccio he maintains a pristine poly-culture ecosystem, with herds of sheep foraging through his vines, groves of olive trees on ancient terraces, and large swaths of untouched forests. His vines come from cuttings of indigenous grapes, sourced decades ago from elderly peasant farmers high up in the isolated and mountainous interior of the island, effectively saving several native varieties from extinction. To keep his vines happy, he’s known to drive his tractor out to his vineyards and play them traditional Corsican polyphonic songs. After the harvest he’ll treat his cellar to the same music as his grapes ferment and come of age. All part of the terroir, he says. Does all this have an actual effect on the wine? Have a taste for yourself and listen to what the wine has to say.DOMAINE ABBATUCCI
Rouge ‘Cuvee Faustine’ 2009 Ajaccio
Jean-Charles’ Ajaccio Faustine Rouge sees no oak. It’s a selection of Sciacarellu (70%), an indigenous Corsican red grape, blended with Niellucciu (30%), hand-harvested at the best possible ripeness levels, and macerated for thirty days.Lovely in the glass, the wine has a cherry robe with ruby reflections. Its nose evokes the maquis (wild Corsican herbs) and its partial Tuscan roots. It's another singular example of a Thirst wine that isn’t big in body but IS big in flavor – lots of texture and a pleasant, long finish. There’s wild blackberries, spice, pepper, discrete red fruits, subtle tannins. Pair it with a charcuterie plate featuring wild boar salumi or lamb with green olives, chestnut cavatelli and pumpkin brown butter (as we did the other night at the wine dinner). We’ve also enjoyed it with pizza with wild mushrooms.
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