Long live the medium bodied red. Whether from California, Bordeaux, Barolo or, Corsica, the medium-bodied red is now king. There is something expressive and drinkable about such wines. The best of them, like Arena’s Corsican masterpieces, are the greatest terroir wines in the world.
Corsica is among the most interesting wine-growing regions in Europe today. Officially French, the varieties are mostly Italian in origin, but were imported to the island so long ago that they have adapted uniquely to Corsican soils and climate. Niellucciu is an old cousin of modern Sangiovese and Vermentinu is a clone of Vermentino genetically unique to Corsica. Most of these grape varieties date back to at least the 12th century. Indigenous varieties include Barbarosa, Sciaccarellu, Carcajolu-Neru, and Paga Debbiti.
Antoine Arena is responsible for much of the modern attention given to Corsican wines. A native of Corsica who emigrated to the French mainland to study law, he returned in the late 1970’s following a violent incident involving Corsican winemakers protesting French policies. Arena claims he became a farmer ‘by protest’. Returning to the agrarian existence that characterized the island for centuries, Arena was not satisfied until he produced an agricultural product of such quality that the world would take notice. His domaine is, today, one of the most respected in France.
Niellucciu is a 12th century clone of Sangiovese that bears a resemblance to the grapes of the Italian mainland but that also has a distinct spicy character to the fruit uniquely Corsican. All of Arena’s reds are made from the grape, with the distinctions coming from site.
Carco is an eastern-facing vineyard planted in 1987 by Arena. Soils are limestone, chalk, and clay. Originally filled with boulders, Arena and his sons removed them all over a year of arduous work. Today, the vineyard produces open wines that are fresh and high in acid. As with all of Arena’s vineyards, it is farmed biodynamically.
This 2011 Carco is a beautiful, easy to drink wine consisting of savory minerality and bright fruit, with an acidity not unlike Barbera, but with more grace and lift. It is unlike Tuscan Sangiovese, instead offering a more translucent and medium-weight experience. It’s highly aromatic and a match, as you would expect, for tomato based foods and sauces.
While Arena is not available in the BC market, the Corsican wines of Comte Abbatucci are, and remain true to the Island’s great potential. The Arena wines are well worth seeking out, however, and can be found along the west coast of the U.S. and in Canada at Quebec’s SAQ. Note also that after 2014 Antoine Arena’s domaine has been split into three, each one run by one of his sons.
$40 USD + tax at Esquin, Seattle