Why you should visit the wild wine region of Patrimonio in Corsica



The French island of Corsica is twice the size of the US state of Rhode Island, about half the size of Wales. This island with jagged limestone peaks is encircled by the white-peaked waves of the azure Mediterranean Sea. Corsica also produces excellent wines.

The northernmost segment of the island is a topographic finger that juts out upwards past the town of Bastia. Within this land is Patrimonio, both a hillside town and an associated wine appellation. The wine region covers an area of ​​1,050 acres (425 hectares) and includes various communes (municipalities) which include Saint Florent, Farinole, Oletta, Poggio d’Oletta and Casta. About half of the wine production here is red and half white.

“Patrimonio was the first appellation of Corsica,” explains Jean-Laurent De Bernardi, a biodynamic winegrower whose father and grandfather created wines before him. The appellation was created in 1968 (a dozen years before the formation of the first American appellation, or American Viticultural Area). As the former president of the appellation, he delved into the history of island wines and told how the Greeks first introduced grapes and how the Romans developed their culture. The production and export of wine was also economically crucial during the five centuries that Corsica was ruled by the Italian city-states of Pisa and Genoa.

We tasted a crisp white Vermentino in the humid and less ostentatious cellar of Clos De Bernardi, then we tasted vat samples of 2020 100% Nielluccio (Sangiovese) red. This includes fresh and rich aromas of wild strawberries and those of the famous fragrant scrub known as scrub, which covers the island. Jean-Laurent then poured glasses of sweet muscat, with a rainbow of aromas as diverse as those of a Klein Constantia sweet wine from South Africa.

“Pair this sweet wine with Roquefort, local Brocciu or foie gras,” suggested Charlotte de Lassée, a wine seller who told me about Patrimonio and this producer when we met on the mainland year round. last.

According to the requirements of the Patrimonio appellation, white wines must contain 100% Vermentino (also called Rolle or Malvasia), while reds must contain 90% Nielluccio. The remaining 10% can include individually or as a mixture the grape varieties Sciacarello, Grenache and Malvasia. The mellow whites from the same region have their own appellation: Muscat du Cap Corse.

After leaving the hillside cellar and driving over switchbacks, I entered a random sandwich shop in the coastal town of Saint Florent. By ordering a ham and cheese panini I casually mentioned needing that late lunch before enjoying a glass of wine by the shore.

Hearing the word wine, the owner of this sandwich shop Led me to the porch and introduced another client, a doctor named Tony De Bernardi, who turned out to be winemaker Jean-Laurent’s brother. (The French refer to such fortuitous encounters as occurring “by chance,” meaning by chance or coincidence.)

The meeting highlighted the prevalence of ties on the island, as well as the importance of family. It is Tony’s own son, Pierre-François, nephew of Jean-Laurent, who took the reins of Clos De Bernardi as a fourth generation winemaker.

When visiting Patrimonio, it is essential to travel the coastal roads. And you have to drive because, as two Parisian hitchhikers explain, the northernmost region lacks public transport.

The peninsula’s often deeply forested and winding coastal roads offer sweeping and breathtaking sea views. Viewing the Gulf of Saint Florent from the north rivals the quality of any coastal views of the Greek island of Santorini. Heading north from Saint Florent, hairpin bends lead to the village of Sonza, where stone houses topped with ancient slate tiles appear to cling to the cliffs. Turn down the volume of Italian radios, roll down your car window and sniff the scented scrub. Enjoy the fresh, clean air along this rugged coastline with its limestone plateaus, scuba diving outfitters, fit families roaming the heinous mountain roads, and villages with family-friendly roadside restaurants .

After your return to Saint Florent, enjoy a sunset along a row of harbor side bars and restaurants. This coastal town is a boating paradise, with yachts named Astrid or Imagine or Fawn attracting dreamy-eyed visitors keen to soar to Mediterranean sunsets. The general mood is in slow motion California Santa Monica meets UK Cornwall meets Cannes, where the yachts are relatively down to earth, where health and good looks are prized and where French families seem genuinely happy. The dining options here are excellent (try the local wines with fresh hake or dorado fish).

The fashion here oscillates between Parisian hippie and rich and sober yachtie. The ladies in cheesecloth dresses wear Save the Bees hand-knitted sandals and bags, generous silver hoops, and straw beanies surrounded by single strands of colorful yarn. Carefully-groomed, semi-scruffy bartenders serve up spritz aperitif glasses, while designer motorcycles ply the waterfront and newly-docked superyachts eject their electric catwalks. Overall, the vibe is laid back and laid back; visitors and locals seem more sane than haughty.

Following Jean-Laurent’s advice, I ate at the seaside restaurant La Gaffe. Here, chef Yann Le Scavarec and his wife Séverine only serve seasonal and local dishes. Line fished red tuna with rice cream and Nobu mayonnaise goes well with a glass of Yves Leccia Biancu Marinu 2020 white. This 60/40 blend of Muscat Petit Grains and Vermentino isn’t a shy wine — with a mouth rinse of tangerines, lime and gooseberries. Then, slowly braised veal shoulder with a garnish of artichokes, foie gras and black olives, accompanied by an unfiltered 2017 red from Domaine Giudicelli (aromas – a piece of bramble of scrub scents, followed by sweet tastes that include this scent. of maquis, of salt- trail of savagery so characteristic of Patrimonio wines).

Finally, a dessert called Galets de Nonza (Tulakalum chocolate, hazelnuts, pine nuts, salted butter caramel and chocolate ice cream).

After dinner Tony and I met as planned two doors down, where live music was being played at La Vista. He introduced me to a bright-eyed Parisian sommelier named Emily Seguy who spends two months every summer on the island, working with Patrimonio wines. Oenologist by training at Château Cheval Blanc in Bordeaux, his general specialty is Corsican wines. The three of us shared a bottle of Clos Venturi while Emily explained the uniqueness of Patrimonio viticulture.

“Corsica is the most“ organic ”wine region in France. One of the reasons is the climate: we have less mildew than in Bordeaux, say. Patrimonio is also the only wine appellation on the island where Roundup herbicide is banned. And Patrimonio has a new generation of young and energetic winegrowers [wine makers] who are close friends and work together. Very supportive‘, she explained, stressing their local solidarity. To that, we toasted.

Corsican wines not belonging to any of the nine island AOC appellations (Controlled Designation of Origin) are produced under the more general name IGP (Protected Geographical Indication). This general designation has its own name—Island beauty, which rightly means the Isle of Beauty. So true.


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