Small anti-dry on Corsican vintages

Hello everyone, my name is Laurent and I am a sommelier.

Today I offer you a quick presentation of the red wines Corsica in AOP to give you the first references when you will have the mission to delight your tribe by choosing a bottle for the evening meal.

What is an "AOP" (formerly a protected origin designation). It is a kind of product-specific label that certifies you a certain specifications. In terms of wine, an appellation is first and foremost a geographical location, it means a terroir, a soil, a weather. It is also and above all a grape variety, that is to say the choice of the or grapes that made the wine. Then it is also a technique with know-how retained and agreed by the winemakers.

When you read an appellation on a bottle this refers to all this information which is as much as indications about the product you buy.

Calling Corsican wine


If in front of you the bottle bears the name "Ajaccio" you are dealing with a wine that was produced somewhere between the Gulf of Porto and the borders of Sartenais. The main character trait of this appellation is due to the presence of its flagship grape variety: "Sciaccarellu" in which it is present to the tune of 40% minimum. The Sciaccarellu gives the best of itself on the granite arenas of the East Coast, but it is nevertheless found more discreetly on the whole of Corsica. In your glass the Sciaccarellu has a fairly clear ruby dress and plays with light with crystalline reflections. Its name comes from the Corsican "sciacca" and roughly means "that bursts under the fingers". Sciaccarellu is endemic to the island of beauty. Its particular character (I speak in a moment) earned it the comparison and even suspicions of kinship (denials) with pinot noir.

It is a grape of great elegance, quite lively and of a very discreet tanic frame. Perhaps most striking is its aromatic precision. With The Sciaccarellu "Red Fruit Aromas" it is not an indeterminate compote, no, there you close your eyes and you see clearly the fresh cherry and can be the gooseberry that passes and fades to make way for a light strawberry. You will also find almond and blackcurrant and especially a spicy finish, this famous peppery note that concludes the comparison with pinot noir Bourguignon.

Depending on the estates and vintages that bear the name "Ajaccio", you will find Sciaccarellu in blend ingst with other grape varieties: Nielllucio, Grenache, "old Corsican grape" … So several personalities in perspective but the wines will always have this character of elegance, finesse, and this finish a little spicy.

You can also sometimes find this Appellation in mono varietal (100% Sciaccarellu). There you have some nuggets to discover… (my favorite cuvée will be the subject of a future article).


The name "Patrimonio" is perhaps the most emblematic. It is in any case the oldest on the island. Unlike the name "Ajaccio" the red Patrimonio is composed of an exclusive grape variety: Nielluccio. You can easily distinguish it from Sciaccarellu before you have even tasted it because our Niellucciu has a very dark and thick dress that gladly pulls on the bluish black. In fact its name comes from "denied" which means: "dark; "black" in Corsican. Niellucciu makes typical wines as one can imagine them, if we believe the reputation of the wines of the island: "Tannic, a little rustic, sun-drenched and with character". To give you a comparison the Niellucciu is the cousin of the Italian "Sangiovese" with which we make chianti. It was just imported to the island by the sizers in the 12th century.

This rich and complex variety will give you powerful aromas of red and black fruits, liquorice, spices, game, sometimes violets and apricots. Being the richest in tannin it is naturally the Corsican guard variety. Fruity and sometimes already fooded in the early years it evolves mixing notes of spices, fur of hare and undergrowth. If the most tannic vintages are to drink with a wild boar that you killed yourself with a knife, Nielluccio can also prove to be very soft depending on the bottles, as it can be refined and sensual with a perfectly silky and velvety tannin.

Corsican wine and Corsican wine – "Calvi," "Coteau du cap Corse," "Sartène," "Figari," "Porto Vecchio"  

The name "Corsican wine" is a kind of generic appellation that can be produced anywhere in Corsican. When there is no location accuracy, one usually has to deal with a bottle that comes from the east coast. It can also be divided into five "sub-regions" that correspond to the following localities: Calvi, Côteau du Cap Corse, Figari, Sartène, Porto Vecchio. If you want it's a bit like the "village" appellations of the continent.

A short list of words about the title: when you have a bottle of "Wine of Corsica – locality", often simply appears the name of the locality as for example "Calvi" instead of "Vin de Corse Calvi"

What I can tell you about all these appellations is much less formal than what I was able to tell you about the "Patrimonio" or the "Ajaccio". The reason lies in the terms of the decree. In order to be able to take on the appellation Corsican wine (more local or not), the winemaker will have to use one of the two emblematic grape varieties (Niellucciu or Sciaccarellu) or both to a minimum of 50%. This means that for the same appellation we can technically as well have in the bottle 25% and 25% of the two grape varieties as one can have a pure Niellucciu or a pure Sciaccarelu (the latter being much rarer).

Conclusion: for the most part, you will have to make your own initiation and discover the originality of the different domains. However, here are some comments on the different localities.

Corsican wine (without locality): most often from the eastern plain and mostly from Nielluciu. There are big productions of good quality but also some very nice smaller areas that are gaining more and more personality.

Corsican wine "Calvi" between Calvi and the red island, it is a predominantly granitic terroir that extends into plateaus and windswept hillsides.  It is still mostly the Nielluciu that we find, but the terroir makes it a slightly more flexible expression in general and a little more on the fruit than the heritage. Grenache and Syrah are sometimes invited for a good part in the assemblages.

Corsica wine "Coteau du Cap Corse". This terroir, made up of shale ridges, produces mainly whites and these are of a very beautiful minerality (I will talk about my favorite vintages, including some very beautiful whites, in a future article). Reds are very rare and are both powerful and fine.

Corsican wine "Sartène". Sartène wines are sun-drenched and are traditionally opulent and sensual. It is often the Reds of Sartène that win the most memberships. Nielluciu in particular, finds an expression all round and spicy.

Corsican wine "Figari": There, more wonders! Figari is a small terroir where you can see beautiful initiatives in terms of winemaking, especially those to revive a whole heritage of old grape varieties like Carcajholu Neru of which it would be the original terroir. Thanks to the initiative of a few winemakers, this terroir has a few elite wines in store for you. Some do not fall under the AOP "Wine of Corsica" for lack of respect for the decree on grape variety. We then have a "wine from France" from Figari that can reveal a nugget. To be fair it should be noted that several winemakers in several other terroirs of the island of beauty vinify with "the old Corsican grape variety" and suddenly do not benefit from the PDO on vintages yet very typical.

Corsican wine "Porto Vecchio": The terroir is quite similar to that of Figari especially from a climatic point of view where there are strong winds and summer droughts. Reds are in principle powerful (usually based on Niellucciu), fruity, spicy, or even with an animal connotation. Many are raised in barrels with some happiness.

You are ready to decipher the "AOP" appellations of Corsican red wines. If you had to remember only one thing from this article, remember the two basic grape varieties of the appellations that are Sciaccarellu and Niellucciu. Of course the Corsican terroir reserves other appellations such as the IGP (formerly "Wine of Country") and above all a mine of curiosity that are under the almost anonymous aegis of the "Vin de France". Indeed, Corsican winemakers always try to go further in the expression of their terroir and some make wines outside AOP based on "old Corsican grape" which are real treasures.

I find you in a next article, a little less technical or it will be about the favorite vintages not to be missed in the three colors …

Pieretti Estate
Pieretti Estate

And to accompany the bottles you will have unearthed it is this way!!

And to book it's this way…

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