By Celia Strong
Spring is official. Warmer temperatures, longer days, pollen on everything, school breaks. I’m sure you know the list as well as I do. And, we have moved our wicker furniture onto our porches. What you don’t know, yet, is a great new set of wines – at great prices – that are going to be just perfect. They may become as important on the porch as the furniture.
Our wines come from the island of Corsica. This Mediterranean island is located about 106 miles southeast of France, 56 miles west of Italy and 7 miles north of Sardinia. The Phocaeans (a tribe of ancient Greeks) settled the island in 570 B C. They were active wine growers, and drinkers, and used both indigenous vines and some they imported. For centuries after the Phocaeans, various cultures and countries controlled the island. During the 7th and 8th centuries, Islamic rule cut into the production of wine. In the Middle Ages, the city of Pisa in Tuscany ruled the island. In the 13th century and for 500 years after, the Republic of Genoa was in control. During their rule, wine laws for growing, harvesting and making wine were introduced. In 1768, Genoa ceded Corsica to France. In 1769, Napoleon Bonaparte was born in Ajaccio in Corsica to a wine producing family. While Napoleon ruled France, Corsica was allowed to export their wines duty-free to the entire French Empire. This combination of Italian and French cultures still shows itself in Corsica’s wines.
Geographically, Corsica is mostly mountainous. Its climate is warmer and drier than France. Its temperatures are consistent with very little variation between daytime and night. Vineyards at higher elevations and ocean breezes help keep the grapes from getting too hot. The average elevation of vineyards on Corsica is 1,000 feet above sea level.
The majority of wines from Corsica are designated Vin de Pays de Île de Beauté. The Island of Beauty. In 1968, they did get their first AC designation, Patrimonio. Today, there are nine AC designations. But, Île de Beauté still makes up two thirds of the total production. In recent years, European Union grants have allowed winemakers to afford more modern equipment. This means white and rosé wines can be fermented at cooler temperatures to enhance their fruit flavors and acidity. Rosé wines here are usually made with the “saignée” method. (Production of these wines starts as red, and, then, some of the juice is “bled” out of the whole to make lighter colored wines.) Malolactic fermentation is almost never done with Corsican white or rosé wines. It is done with their reds, though, as well as barrel aging.
One of the more interesting things with Corsican wines is their grape varieties. A combination of their history with Italy and France. The three leading varieties are Nielluccio, a red known as the spice wine of France, Sciacarello, another red, and Vermentino (Vermentinu in Corsican), a white. In addition, they use Tempranillo, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Grenache and more. Nielluccio, known now as a French variety, because Corsica is still French, is believed to have its origins in Italy, by some ampelographers. In fact, it is said to have close generic traits to Sangiovese. Supposedly, it was brought over to Corsica by the Genoese. Others claim Nielluccio is indigenous to the island. Either way, Corsica is about the only place it is grown and it makes up about fifty percent of all their red wines. Most winemakers use both local and imported varieties.
All of which gets us ready for our Corsican winery. Domaine Vetriccie. Named for the native wicker trees that grow all around their vineyards. Owned by the Barcelo family, they have about 300 acres, planted with both European and Corsican varieties. Daniel Barcelo, after making wines in California and other new world locations, came back to the family estate. He is focusing on the terroir and respect for the land. Which we can see in our three wines.
Vetriccie Red is made from 40% Niellucciu, 30%, Sciaccrallu, 20% Merlot and 10% Syrah. The grapes are picked at optimal ripeness, destemmed and fermented at high temperatures. The traditional method that produces good tannins and anthocyanins. Its aromas include black olives, currants, violets, licorice, spices and Maquis, the local scrubland. The flavors are black currant, black berries, licorice and spices. And it pairs well with grilled meats and strong cheese and evenings on the porch in your wicker chair. For $7.99.
Vetriccie White is half Vermentinu and half Chardonnay. These grapes are picked at night to preserve their flavors and acids. The juices are drained off, chilled and fermented in stainless steel tanks. This wine is mineral and rich at the same time. It has a lively acidity and is rich and smooth and unctuous. Lemon, herb and apple flavors abound. Perfect with shellfish, seafood, salads, and your wicker rocker. For $7.99
Vetriccie Rosé is made from 40% Nellucciu, 30% Sciaccarellu, 15% Grenache and 15% Merlot. These grapes are also picked at night for cooler temperatures. And fermented cooler, too. It is fruity and crisp, well balanced and bold. Not a normal term when we’re talking about rosés, but taste it. You’ll know right away what a bold rosé is. Its flavors do show licorice and spices. The wicker lounge chair is waiting! For $7.99. Enjoy!