Each of these wines is made from Corsica’s two main red grape varieties, niellucciu and sciaccarellu, which are genetically identical to sangiovese and mammolo, a Tuscan blend that rarely comes out on its own.
Many older Corsican vineyards also contain familiar southern French grape varieties such as Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault and Carignan, mainly planted in the 1950s and 1960s by French expatriates in North Africa who settled in Corsica after the end of French colonial rule.
The Maestracci, for example, is made from 35% niellucciu, 30% grenache, 15% sciaccarellu and syrah and 5% mourvèdre, blended into a homogeneous whole.
If I try hard I can detect individual elements, like the savory push of the syrah, but honestly it’s quite distinctive, fresh and crisp with lingering flavors of sweet and tart fruit. It’s not sweet and bitter like I might find in an Italian red, but different: tart, maybe, but not heavy at all, and solid enough to withstand a thick steak I cooked using the reverse cooking method.
It was a delicious wine, although one reader, Peter from Philadelphia, found it “overpoweringly barnyard-like”. I haven’t found anything similar in two separate bottles, nor has it been reported by other readers. Dan Barron of New York called a 2018 Clos Reginu “a wine of mountain and sea, scrub and rock, from France and Italy and a whole other place.” I can only guess that Peter had a faulty bottle. It happens, even if it’s infuriating when it happens.
The Pinelli was a combination of sciaccarellu, niellucciu and grenache, although the proportions were not available. Is it important? I do not think so. It was also a smooth and cohesive blend, a bit more intense and powerful than the Maestracci – 14 percent alcohol versus 13 percent Maestracci. It was earthy, spicy, pale ruby in color – VSB of San Francisco called it “the palest red wine in my experience” – but structured with slightly dry tannins on the palate.
I also really liked this wine. It was the first time I had a wine from this producer, Marie-Charlotte Pinelli. I look forward to trying more of his wines in the future.