In the great ethnic soup that is the Mediterranean, the smaller-than-Connecticut island of Corsica is a veritable minestra. And the use of the Italian word for a complex soup is no accident.
Despite the fact that Corsica is part of France, it was only given over to the French crown in 1768 by the then city-state of Genoa who had ruled and deeply influenced it for hundred of years prior. And even to this day, though every Corsican speaks French, most of them also speak the Corsican dialect of Italian that is closely related to old Genoese.
But the history of Corsica reaches much further back into the fog of history than its Genoese cultural overlay. The Greeks, and before them, the Phoenicians, beginning nearly a millennium B.C., traded in and colonized this semi-arid cluster of mountains that rises out of the blue sea.
And though there’s no concrete proof that the traders from one of these ancient civilizations carried the vine here, Corsica’s red Sciacarello variety grows nowhere else in the world, and is very likely a viticultural holdover brought by one of these two seafaring people. That said, the aforementioned and more recent seafaring overlords of the island – the Genoese – almost certainly carried to the island a vine that is known in Corsica as Niellucciu (nee-el-LOO-choo), but which is known on the Italian mainland by the far more famous moniker of (The Great) Sangiovese.
Evidenced by the clear divergence in nomenclature, it’s plain that this strain of Sangiovese has been in Corsica long enough to have acquired an exclusively Corsican name, and the wines produced by Niellucciu are as different from Italian Sangioveses as are the names. Much of the acreage of Patrimonio’s clay and chalk soils (the region from which this wine emanates) is planted to Niellucciu, and it’s these dense soils, the intense Corsican sun, the region’s parsimonious rainfall, and the sub-variety’s unique genetics that transform Niellucciu-based wines into deeper, darker, and somewhat more masculine, and shall we say “pastoral” wines. Niellucciu is undoubtedly recognizable as Sangiovese’s kin, but it’s much more like a long lost cousin than a brother or sister.
This very sexy, deeply sun-tanned red went to the table with a first course of yellow squash, chick pea, and sheep’s milk cheese fritters, followed by a main course of fried lamb patties seasoned with cumin, parsley, mint, onions and garlic, and a side of green beans stewed with tomatoes and shallots.
Clos Teddi Patrimonio Niellucciu 2010
Very deep blackish garnet color. Suavely pungent nose of black currant, black cherry and grape jelly fruit notes strongly followed by aromas of olive paste, cinnamon, gingerbread, and violet-scented powder. The palate possesses a smooth and powerful medium-full body with a pointy acidity and a prominent but polished dry tannic structure with very charmingly rustic flavors of black raspberry, myrtle, black licorice and vanilla bean. Very long and warm roasted, minerally finish. A singular expression of “Sangiovese”