Posted by: tomciocco | June 25, 2012


Like their neighbors (though not really cousins) to the south the Sardinians, the Corsicans have been subjected to all the buffetting winds of history that an island people in the middle of it all for 4,000 years could expect to receive. Etruscans, Greeks, Romans, Saracens, Franks, Genoese, Pisans, Turks, and lastly, the French, have arrived, and have either left when the place no longer served them, or were driven out by the next invader. So it seems fitting that vendetta is a Corsican word, and that just a cursory glance at the map of Corsica plainly recalls a figurative hand unwaveringly pointing out the crimes of every marauder from abroad…

Corsica, unlike Sardegna and Sicily, has almost no flat or fertile land. Its interior is a sun-soaked, mountainous place of olive groves, wild sheep, and cork oaks. Chestnuts were tradtionally used to make “flour” for pasta (just like in Liguria)because wheat can’t be cultivated here on any practical scale. But  being an island, and a craggy, cove-y one at that, the Corsican coast is dotted with hundreds of bright little fishing villages that brings this dry land the water’s bounty. 

And in this evening’s wine you can see and smell the silhouette and the spirit of Corsica. It’s a blend of 35% Nielluccio (the local name for Sangiovese), 35% Grenache, 15% Sciaccarello (a uniquely Corsican variety), and 15% Syrah – a blend that to my mind, beautifully sketches out the history of the multiple invading “others” and the obdurate pre-historic core of the place –  in grapes. It’s sweet and intense, but with a steely, slightly aggressive structure, and it’s a wine that could well be held up as the going standard for “rustic elegance”.

Riffing on the Corsican pantry and market, I improvised a salad of chick peas, porcini mushrooms, onions, basil, parsley dressed with oilive oil and lemon juice. And for the main course, I pounded out a layered baked casserole of fried eggplant slices, ground lamb, tomato sauce, and olives, with mint, rosemary, and thyme, bound together with breadcrumbs and egg, with both courses served with some killer Portuguese bread Jen and I got in Ironbound (Newark) last weekend…









Domaine Maestracci “E Prove” Corse Calvi Rouge 2008         

Sultry, blackish-purple/garnet color. Big, complex, and effusive nose of black cherries, black raspberries, dusty earth, dried herbs, roasted chestnuts, oil-cured black olives, barnyard, toasted spices, and a hint of roses. The palate is a great balance of broad, supple, and sweet texture, with a very dry tannic structure and good acid “cut” that give way to juicy and intense flavors of plum, strawberry, black licorice, blood sausage, and cola. The finish is smooth and warm with really good length.

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