A next-generation Patrimonio winemaker

by Tom Fiorina on September 13, 2010

I’ve noticed, following several recent medical visits, that they’re allowing younger and younger physicians to practice medicine. Or, maybe it’s just me, as I’ve recently passed the half-century mark. The same thing seems to be happening with winemakers. There’s an entirely new generation coming along, and some of them are making wine that rivals their elders’ efforts.

Driven to prefection

Take, for example, Nicolas Mariotti Bindi, who is still shy, I’d venture to guess, of his 30th birthday. Originally from Bastia, in northern Corsica, Mariotti Bindi went off to study law in Paris at the Sorbonne. But instead of following in the footsteps of his father, an attorney in Bastia, he decided that his interest in wine exceeded legal proceedings.

His first stop was in Beaujolais, where he spent time learning how the Moulin-à-Vent cru is made there. A three-month internship pruning vines for one of the leading winemakers in northern Corsica’s Patrimonio region, Antoine Arena, followed. In 2007, Annette Leccia of Domaine Leccia in Patrimonio hired him as chef de culture (vineyard manager), a position that he still holds even though he is making his own wine with five hectares of vines that were generously offered to him by another Patrimonio winemaker, Henri Orenga de Gaffory.

The one hectare of Vermentinu and four hectares of Nieullucci had always, he explains, been farmed organically. He continues to not use any chemical herbicide or fertilizer, and he uses indigenous yeast for the wine that he is making in the Domaine Leccia cellar from his own grapes.

He hit a homerun with his first vintage; Gérard Margeon, “Monsieur Vin” for the Group Ducasse of French Chef Alain Ducasse fame, put Mariotti Bindi’s 2007 white Vermentinu on the wine list of Ducasse’s restaurant at the Plaza Athénée in Paris. I have no idea what they’re selling it for in Paris, but it’s got to be significantly more than what it will cost you in at Domaine Leccia in Poggio d’Oletta, where you’ll get a bottle of Vermentinu and change back for €15.

Citron and floral notes abound in this fresh, mouth-filling, straw-colored wine. Its balance might be better with a touch more acidity, but it certainly should be holding its own at the Plaza in Paris.

The 100% Niellucciu from that same inaugural 2007 vintage shows nice complexity, with a red violin wood-tone color, and a smooth mouth feel and interesting animal-like aromas. I’d been told, by several older-generation Patrimonio winemakers, that Niellucciu sometimes exhibits a natural “oakiness,” and, since this wine is not barrel aged, I think that I finally got a taste of that characteristic. It was not off-putting, but it took away something from the wine’s natural elegance. Having said that, it will be interesting to see how this wine evolves in several years after the edges have had time to soften somewhat.

The 2009 red that I tasted hadn’t yet been bottled, but, there again, something seemed to be slightly off the mark. Mariotti Bindi explained that he had harvested the Niellucciu slightly earlier than usual for that vintage to try to make a more “lively” wine. He said that he wasn’t satisfied with this particular vintage, which lacks body, and that he would go back to a later harvest time for this grape.

He still has things to learn—but he has time to continue to improve his wines.  His objective, he says, “is to make a red that is structured, but easy to drink, and a white that is at once dynamic and still refreshing.”  Given his results in just three short years,  it seems certain that this objective is in reach.

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