I’ve written frequently on The Vine Route about how I came to discover Corsica over 20 years ago. My first trip to the Mediterranean island was to visit my then-girlfriend-now-wife’s Corsican family. Like most Americans, the only thing that I knew about Corsica was that Napoleon was from there.
Avid reader that I am, one of my first stops in the capital city of Ajaccio was a bookshop. One of the few English-language books about Corsica on the shelves was Dorothy Carrington’s “Granite Island.” This is, in my mind, the definitive book in any language about the island that I’ve read. This 19th-century, English anthropologist, a gifted travel writer and historian who was a perpetual traveler, first visited the island in 1948. She never left, writing numerous books about the highly individualistic island culture that created Corsican pride, love of freedom, and sense of hospitality. “Granite Island” opened up this mysterious island to me, revealing the secrets of Corsica’s Neolithic past—its menhir statues and bronze-age settlements, its bandits and vendettas, its 700-year rule by Genoese overlords, and the island’s prickly relationship with France.
In many ways, Corsica’s wine heritage is as enigmatic as the origin of those stone menhir statues. Production is low, and the majority of the Corsican wine that arrives in continental France is the lower-quality, Vin de pays sort. The better wine, which qualifies as Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (A.O.C.), is mostly drunk by the two million tourists who visit during the summer months.
The reputation of Corsican wine suffered greatly during the 1960s and 1970s when repatriated French from former French colonies in North Africa produced vast quantities of industrial wine. However, a new generation of winemakers has replanted native Corsican vine varieties and is using biodynamic and organic viticulture to make wines that express the island’s unique mountainous Mediterranean climate and its enormous diversity of soil types. A number of wine importers, particularly Kermit Lynch in the U.S., have worked hard to introduce the best winemakers on the island to wine drinkers around the world.
And it’s in that spirit that I’ve gathered information about the wine producers who I’ve come to know over the years to produce the four wine tourism guides that you can download here. Each guide explores one of the island’s major wine regions, which correspond roughly with Corsica’s four largest cities: Ajaccio, Porto-Vecchio, Bastia and Calvi.
Besides profiles of each region’s leading winemakers, the guides include recommendations on hotel and bed-and-breakfast accommodations, restaurants offering traditional Corsican food, and information about selected tourist destinations. I hope that you’ll consider visiting Corsica to sample its excellent wine, to enjoy the spectacular scenery, and to sample its unique culture first-hand. You may not end up staying there, as Dorothy Carrington did, or marrying a Corsican, as I did, but you will certainly return home with special memories about a special place.
French versions of the guides will be available soon!