Antoine Arena Bianco Gentile 2010

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Corsican wine is, surprisingly, becoming a fairly big thing in wine geek and sommelier circles in the U.S. Wines from Corsica can be intriguing, particularly given the island’s nearly untouched natural environment and modest chemical use across the island. Many growers here are organic or moving in that direction. The wines can be expensive, but the best offer something unique.

Tumultuous History and Biodynamic Farming

Any winemaker from Corsica is bound to have an interesting story and Atoine is no exception. As described on Kermit Lynch’s website:

“Antoine Arena, like most Corsicans of his generation, grew up in a family that earned a modest living working the land on an island largely unknown to the outside world. As soon as he could he joined the mass exodus of Corsicans to the French mainland, in search of jobs and what they thought to be a better life. Several years later in the mid 1970s, with a promising career on the mainland, the Corsican independence movement exploded with violent confrontations between nationalists and French government forces, leaving Antoine stunned.

In his shock and anger, he moved back to the family farm and decided to reverse the trend and remain on the land, as his own form of protest. Many others soon followed his lead, and for the first time in over a century, the emigration from the island ebbed and Corsicans came back home to reclaim their land.”

Antoine Arena focuses on minimal intervention wine making and biodynamics, wishing to give his native Corsica its truest expression. This also manifests in his exclusive use of indigenous grapes, many of which are quite rare. The Bianco Gentile used in this wine is an ancient local variety rediscovered by genetic testing in the 1990’s. Only 1ha of Arena’s 14 is planted with it.

Everything on this estate is hand picked, naturally fermented with low doses of sulfur, sees no oak, and generally sees a long fermentation. The whites see extended lees aging and malo.

The Wine

A unique wine, this combines a tangy, salty palate with a rich core of apple and peach fruits and excellent length. The intensity and concentration are impressive. This is an excellent seafood wine that perfectly cleanses the palate and complements the richness of fatty fish and shellfish. I recommend a taste if you come across it.

Very Good+ to Excellent
~$40 at Liner and Ellison, Portland


  1. Neyah Margolis
    May 10, 2013

    Corsica is surprising. Every time I try a wine from Corsica, the results are the same: I become hooked on yet another wine packed with detail, terroir, and freshness. But when you are tasting the wines of Corsican superstars like Antoine Arena, Clos Canarelli, or Comte Abbatucci, the odds of experiencing great wine is certainly in your favor.

    Last night I tried four wines from Antoine Arena, two whites and two reds. All the wines are vinified in cement, use minimal amounts of sulfur, and are very clean and fresh.

    First I had the 2011 Bianco Gentile. It’s labeled as a Vin de France only because the grape is so rare, and was only recently re-discovered, leaving it (for now) beyond the reach of France’s appellation system. And it’s great. Very bright, slightly saline and savory, with scents ranged between lemon verbena and fresh oregano with a clean twist of wild herbs and white grapefruit. It has a surprisingly full mouth-feel and a clean finish. I am tempted to call it minerally, but it seems cleaner, more direct and pure, than that.

    The other white, the 2011 Haut de Carco Vermentinu, is more complex, with bigger aromatics and greater length, and, like the Bianco Gentile, very dry with bright citrus and a suggestion of salinity.

    Trying the reds side-by-side is a privilege. This is terroir at its most revealing.

    The 2010 Grotte di Sole is 100% Niellucciu (Sangiovese), and a must-try for any Burgundy lover. 60-year vines, hand-harvesting, and all destemmed, the Grotte di Sole has a fantastic nose of mushroom caps, shop leather, dried leaves and red and black plum. It was surprisingly supple and polished on the palate, really gorgeous stuff.

    The 2010 Morta Maio is also all Niellucciu, but from a vineyard planted in 2001. This bottling uses some stems. It is a solid core of plum and berry fruit, but with a bigger tannic structure than the Grotte di Sole. Everything in the Morta Maio is more intense and wound up then in the Grotte di Sole. A great wine to pair with food – charcuterie, grilled vegetables, seared meats – but I’d be really interested to see how it ages. A few more years in bottle and it might really be fantastic.

    Definitely wines worth seeking out!

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