Saturday, September 21, 2019


This month the French #winophiles are in Corsica, France. The small island - or what seems like a large mountain - in the Western part of the Mediterranean sea, sitting squarely across the water from Italy and France, with an inevitable political and cultural history of occupation by both. Although it has been a part of France for the last 250 years, Corsica was Italian (or, Genoese which is now Italian) for centuries before that and retains much of the language, culture, and proclivities from that time as well as its own identity formed from centuries of exposure to a whole slew of other cultures including Greek, Roman, and Moorish. Corsica also has the distinction of continuous human occupation since the Mesolithic era. That's the era 15,000 to 5,000 years Before Present (BP). I.e. a really long time ago.

But not as long as 225 M years, which is how long ago some of the mountains on Corsica formed during one of Earth's geological periods called "mountain-building periods" when the earth, oceans, and tectonic plates shifted, collided, crumbled, layered, and pushed, resulting in mountains of various sizes. Although Corsica looks like one large mountain range, and little else, it's actually two large mountain ranges and little else. Islands conjure images of beaches, tanned bodies, etc. Not Corsica. As you can see in the NASA image below, nothing looks like a beach there, just mountain. Two distinctly different but rugged mountain ranges run N-S along the length of the island. The western range is volcanic/igneous rock, mainly granite, and the eastern range is sedimentary and metamorphic rock including limestone, schist, slate, flint, etc. that usually forms in compacted layers on the seabed.

Incidentally, the rocky soil in both of Corsica's mountain ranges is suitable for grapevines. E.g. the granitic soil of the western range allows high acidity in grapes, whereas the slate in the eastern range absorbs and reflects heat, helping to ripen grapes. Schist retains heat well, producing wines with rich minerality and limestone helps vines with nutrient and water uptake and also yields grapes and wines with bright acidity. And indeed wine-making has existed in Corsica since centuries ago when the Greeks introduced vitis vinifera to Corsica, although it has not always flourished. The most recent effort to organise the Corsican wine industry started in the 1960s with the first AOC being established in 1968. Now there are nine AOCs and a variety of grapes are used including Italian varieties. Some grapes are known there by their Italian names rather than French, such as Vermentino/Vermentinu rather than Rolle.

Image from NASA

Along with a long history comes a strong culinary presence as well. Apart from its association with famous figures like Napoleon Bonaparte (who was from a family of Corsican vintners) and Roman philosopher Seneca (who was exiled there), Corsica is known for its candied fruit, pigs fed with wild herbs (maquis) and chestnuts, various charcuterie, seafood, and the unbelievable casgiu merzu, a maggot/larvae-filled cheese made by leaving whole tommes in air to allow flies to lay eggs... you can imagine the rest. It's unbelievable that someone would do that to a tomme. And it's unbelievable that it's a very expensive product. If you've read Asterix in Corsica, you know this cheese and its effect on unsuspecting non-Corsicans! If you haven't read Asterix in Corsica, see the photo above!


We chose one red and one white from Domaine Vico's Clos Venturi, Vin de Corse AOC which is an island-wide designation. Jean Vico, whose family produced wines for several generations, originally planted the domaine’s vineyards in 1901. In 1987 Jean-Marc Venturi purchased the property, replanted some of the vineyards and began improving the quality of the wine. At the end of the nineties, Emmanuel Venturi began working with his dad after studying winemaking on the island and doing some internships abroad. Domaine Vico covers 46 hectares, planted with local varieties Vermentinu, Niellucciu and Sciaccarellu, along with Grenache and Syrah. The vineyards complex soils contain schist, small rocks and sand, as well as some volcanic sediment, and the vines are planted at 300 - 400 m. After working the vineyards sustainably for 35 years, the domaine was awarded the HVE (High Environmental Value) certification in 2015 and has been in organic and biodynamic conversion since 2017.

2017 Clos Venturi White Wine, 13.5% ABV
100% Vermentinu (Rolle) | SRP $18
From the label: "Clos Venturi is not only the furthest Corsican winery from the sea, but also the highest with vineyards at 400 m (1312 ft). The grapes are planted on granite soil, hand-harvested, and aged in wood, clay, and concrete barrels and tanks."

The wine is deep lemon with aromas of lemon rind, white flowers, and faint honeysuckle. On the palate it has ripe lemon, lemon rind, quince, quinine, and faint honeysuckle in the back, with a sprightly acidity. The finish is medium. A delightful wine for a sunny day, salt cod brandade, and sea urchin bruschette!

2015 Clos Venturi Chiesa Nera, 14% ABV
40% Sciaccarellu, 30% Niellucciu, 10% Carcaghjolu Neru, 9% Minustellu, 4% Morescala, 3% Moresconu, 2% Aleático, and 2% Vermentinu (Rolle) SRP $36
From the label: "Chiesa Nera is a rare wine produced in very small quantities. Made with a variety of eight red and white grapes native to Corsica and aged in amphorae."

This elegant wine is medium ruby with complex aromas of blue and black fruit, violets, and fresh roses. On the palate the wine offers notes of blueberries, violets, red roses, fraises (wild strawberries), and a faint hint of black pepper rounded out by plush but firm tannins, a silky mouthfeel and a finish tending to long. Absolutely delicious!

We enjoyed it with lamb burgers seasoned with herbs typically meant by "maquis" - oregano, basil, thyme, mint, etc. Although our herbs were not wild, they were splendid with the lamb!

See below what the other winophiles did with their Corsican wine picks!


  1. I love vermentino and look forward to finding this wine from Corsica! Cheers to a delish food and wine!

  2. Loved the deep dive into the soils. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I get so excited when you start talking geology and soils! And I had read about the casgiu merzu. Yuk! Thanks for a new perspective on this island from it's very old ground up!

  4. Both of the Clos Venturi Chiesa wines sound delightful Payal. I especially like the fact the Nera raised in amphorae! Love the pairings too! Cheers!