Yesterday was the day we transferred from Ajaccio in southern Corsica to Calvi in the North, and what a ride so reminiscent of the twists and turns of the Amalfi road. We stopped for lunch in one of the many quaint villages and walked the lovely street of St Antoniu, called one of the most picturesque villages not only in Corsica but in all of France.
Although today is Sunday, we were able to get appointments at two of the very best Calvi AOC wineries. That’s why people come on our tours: to gain access to wineries that they otherwise might not be able to visit.
Here’s another reason to come on our tours: tour alumnus Barry Carlson recently wrote that he and his had been to Corsica a few years ago on their own and visited a few wineries, and none of them had wine to pour; the only thing they were able to taste was vinegar!
And we tasted some gems today! Our first visit was Clos Coulombu started in 1973. It’s a relatively large winery with over 100 acres of vineyards producing almost 500,000 bottles. They have been organic since 2014 and in 2006 Etienne Suzzoni planted 13 indigenous grape varieties that were almost extinct: 6 red and 7 white:
- The Cuvée Clos Rosé 2015 had a delightful aroma and a dry, fruity taste in the mouth. It’s made from 4 grapes: sciaccarello, nielluccio, grenache and cinsault.
- We compared that with the Collection Rosé 2015 made from one of the grapes saved from extinction: aleaticu, a rosé worthy of comparison with any from Southern France.
- Our 3rd wine was the Ribbe Rosse 2015, made from vermentino aged 3/4 months in large oak barrels. Delightful with a light green yellow color and a fruity, floral aroma.
- Next we had the Collection Blanc 2015, made from all 7 of the nearly extinct Corsican grape varieties: 10% vermentino, 15% reminese, 15% genovese, 15% bursting, 15% cordivarta, 15% bianca gentile, 15% cualtacciu, a wine that shouted “I’m made from indigenous grapes.”
- Then we started on the reds: Cuvée Clos 2015, from the sciaccarello, nielluccio and syrah, with a fruitiness reminiscent of a good beaujolais. Bill “The Judge” loved it.; Ribbe Rosse 2014, a 50/50 blend of sciaccarello and nielluccio with 1 year barrel aging; Collection Rouge 2013, made from 6 indigenous grapes: 15% nielluccio, 10% carcaghjolu, 30% minustellu, 10% murescone, 20% aleaticu and 15% sciaccarello.
- We ended our visit on a sweet note: Dolce Biancu Muscat 2015, which was a big hit with our group; made from the Muscat Petit Grain.
Lunch was alfresco at Casa Maio, operated by a young couple, Isabelle and Loic with a menu of zucchini beignets, veal brochette, 3 local cheeses including a pungent but absolutely delicious goat cheese and finished with a chestnut flan.
Our last visit was Domaine D’Alzipratu which opened just to receive our group. It’s a family affair and Pierre Acquaviva and his son and wife run the entire operation of 90 acres and produce 200,000 bottles. The winery is 3 kilometers from the ocean and next to a 2,000 km high mountain which interact to provide contrasting climate conditions.
D’Alzipratu uses 4 methods to age their wines: cement, terra cotta, wood and stainless steel. We had 7 of their wines and in my opinion, these were the best wines we’ve had so far:
- Fiume Seccu white 2015, a rich texture wine from vermentino and 10% bianco gentile; Pumone vermentino 2015, which we all thought had wood aging but it was the soil that imparted that character;
Lume 2015 100% vermentino with wood aging, a long finish and a delightful wine; Fiume Secco 2015 red, made from sciaccarello, nielluccio, grenache and syrah; Pumone rouge 2014, a 60/40 blend of sciaccarello and nielluccio with 1 year barrel aging; Alticellu 2014, made from a field blend of 9 60 year old grape varieties in homage to the traditional way of Corsican winemaking, aged in a cement ‘egg;’ and Iniziu 2014, 100% nielluccio aged in a cement egg, with prominent soft tannins that needs a few more years.
It’s hard to imagine how we’ll top these two wineries but we have more visits tomorrow.