Thu 18 Oct 2012

A Rosé by Any Other Name: Corsica


Which of the following would you find most reassuring on a wine label: chjarasginu or rusulinu?

I sense a chorus of ‘neither’, but stay with me because you may soon come across one or the other.

Vines at Clos CulombuIn fact, both are Corsican words for rosé. Etienne Suzzoni proprietor of Clos Culombu, near Calvi, tells me that the first is true-blue authentic, the second less so but at least commercially recognisable. As a proud native speaker of Corsu, his mobile is abuzz with consultations on this subject, as if he wasn’t busy enough bringing in the harvest, and making time for me during one of my regular holiday fixes of feral pig, chestnut cake and wild myrtle ice-cream.

As one speaker of a minority language to another, I understand Etienne’s dilemma, and share his dislike of the confected – the Wenglish, as I’d call it – but I do want the world to embrace Corsican rosé, whatever it’s called. It is, without doubt the island’s finest liquid asset, though the haunting, herb-infused whites and ethereal dessert muscats are delightful, and the reds vastly improved since my first visit three decades ago, when I found quality to be in inverse proportion to the number of obscure gold medals sported on the label.

Raising the red bar is high on Etienne’s agenda as I note from a handsome new red-cedar winery, built two years ago. I expect, and am not disappointed, to see serried ranks of gleaming steel, but I’m intrigued by the glass-walled barrel-cellar and its unmistakable whiff of medium toast and red wine. Watching over it is Saint-Vincent, patron saint of winemakers, plastered in the best sense, and doubly valued, says Etienne, as the least expensive fixture in the room and, since he never sleeps, the hardest-working member of the team!

There’s exciting news in the vines too, where plantings of old, indigenous grapes are bearing promising fruit. I taste, for the first time, a scented white blend wherein the more usual vermentino, or carbessu as it’s called here, is joined by riminese, biancu gentile, razzolu, cudivarta and cualtacciu among others. A juicy red, based on young vines of the island’s two primary reds, nielluciu (aka sangiovese), and sciaccarellu, cut with carcaghjolu, minustrellu, murescone and aleaticu is a delight. Watch this space.

Clos Colombu wines

Meanwhile, back to the rosé, no petit vin d’été, but a belting bottle that we list all year round for good reason. Its dry, crisp, herbal character, wonderful fragrance and deep concentration lift fish, fowl, lamb, beef and even game. Tomatoes and garlic are no problem. Splurge on some top-of-the range charcuterie and a soft, herby, sheepy cheese and you could almost feel the sun on that fragrant maquis – just when you most need to.

Janet Wynne Evans
Specialist Wine Manager

Categories : France

Leave a comment