Specialty Club – September 2011

2008 Antoine Arena, Patrimonio Morta Maio
Members of this club have discovered over the years that world class wines can come from some unusual places – Sardinia, Slovenia, Croatia, Greece, even Georgia. Until we tasted this wine, we didn’t think Corsica would join that list. Although politically part of France, the island of Corsica is both culturally and viticulturally part of Italy. Given its position in the Mediterranean north of Sardinia and just off the Tuscan coast, it’s not surprising that it is mostly known for its crisp whites made from Vermentino. The few other Corsican reds we’ve tasted have been very light and, as Jancis Robinson has put it, “lacking in both guts and structure.”

Imagine our surprise when we discovered an elite wine from Corsica! The winemaker, Antoine Arena, grew up on a modest family farm in the Patrimonio region at the northern tip of the island, and after pursuing a career as a lawyer on the French mainland, returned home in the seventies determined to elevate the profile of Corsican wine. Influenced by the famous “gang of four” from Beaujolais, he identified the best parcels and vinified them separately, while working the vineyards organically and avoiding adding sulfur. This wine is 100% Nielluccio, a mutation of Sangiovese, the only cuvee from his best vineyard, Morta Maio, two hectares planted in 2001. It’s a very different style of Sangiovese, since the sea breezes and rocky slopes of the area provide a much cooler climate than either southern France or Tuscany. As a young wine, it is delicate and juicy, light and still chewy. It has the kind of pinpoint flavors often associated with Alsace – and would be a great match with Alsatian foods, like charcuterie, beef fillet with porcini mushrooms, or lamb stew. It definitely could be cellared for another five years to develop added complexity. It is $49.75 and we do have a bit more available, as we bought most of what was available in Seattle.

2009 Jean Thomas & Fils, Ultimus Sancerre
In contrast to a newer region like Corsica, the Thomas family has been making wine for Sancerre for ten generations. Jean and Ginette Thomas have approximately 12 hectares of vineyards in the tiny village of Verdigny, all planted with Sauvignon Blanc, except for half a hectare planted with Pinot Noir. This wine comes from their Terre Blanche vineyard, where the vines are between 50 and 70 years old and yields are quite limited. The fruit is allowed to ripen as much as possible, as you can see from the deep golden color of the wine. Half of the cuvee is vinified in cask, intensifying the rich flavors. This is Sancerre at its most powerful and elegant, a wine worthy of starting off your Thanksgiving feast. The cost is $39.75, and we do have a bit more, although this is one of Robert Kacher’s most limited imports.