Corsican Beauty

Today’s Story: Domaine Comte Abbatucci

Domaine Comte Abbatucci was founded in 1950 (though wine history of the family estate dates back more than a century) by Antoine Abbatucci. The Abbatucci name, however, has even deeper roots in Corsica that stretch at least as far back as the French Revolution. Jean-Charles Abbatucci and Jacques-Pierre Abbatucci, for instance, were both Generals during the French Revolution with Jean-Charles considered a hero who fought with Napoléon Bonaparte. Unsurprisingly, there are streets, monuments, and entire plazas in Corsica named after various Abbatucci family members, particularly in the capital city of Ajaccio.

Circling back to the winery as it exists today, the domaine is located in the heart of the Taravo Valley in southern Corsica. During the 1960s, Antoine grew concerned with what seemed to be the impending extinction of native grape varieties thanks to life disappearing in mountain villages that were home to some of the island’s oldest vineyards. As President of the Chamber of Agriculture of Corsica, Antoine removed cuttings from each threatened vineyard he discovered and planted them in one single plot of granite soil on his estate. Through these efforts, this one plot of vineyard land is planted to 18 varieties and pays homage to the winemaking history of Corsica. The fruit from this plot goes into the wines of the highly limited Domaine Comte Abbatucci Cuvée Collection.

While Antoine created arguably one of the most important vineyard plots in Corsican winemaking, his son Jean-Charles made his own vital strides when taking over the domaine. A biodynamist at heart, Jean-Charles converted the estate to biodynamic farming in 2000 to further preserve the original terroir and grape varieties of Corsica. With care for the natural habitat of the vineyards, Jean-Charles conducts work periods based on lunar cycles and the time of day, plowing is accomplished on horseback, and a flock of sheep grazes on the natural and permanent grass cover between rows during the winter. During harvest, all fruit is harvested by hand in small boxes and carefully sorted both in the vineyards and at the winery. Winemaking is accomplished by gravity-flow, fermentation is completed only using indigenous yeasts, and maceration is gentle with alternating punch downs and pump overs. Though Jean-Charles did change the farming practices, he follows in his father’s footsteps by providing cuttings of the salvaged native varieties to other vignerons throughout Corsica.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Cuvée Collection Ministre Impérial

22% Sciaccarello, 18% Nielluccio, 15% Montanaccia, 15% Carcajolo Nero, 12% Morescono, 10% Morescola, 8% Aléatico; 14% ABV

The 2016 Ministre Impérial is named for Jacques-Pierre-Charles Abbatucci, a leading military figure under Napoléon Bonaparte’s Premier Empire and later a senator and official councillor to Napoléon III. He was Jacques-Pierre Abbatucci’s grandson and Jean-Charles Abbatucci’s nephew. The wine itself is a moderately transparent pale ruby color with rose variation toward the rim. Once this opens up in the decanter, the nose emits aromas of cherry, redcurrant, boysenberry, red florals, ground herbs, leather, smoked gamey meats, earth, graphite, smokey minerality, and a hint of woodiness. On the palate, I get notes of cherry, redcurrant, wild blueberry, dried rocky soil, granite, herbs, smoke, slight peppery spice, and mineral. This is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, elegant and refined medium (-) tannins, and a long finish dominated by red fruit and rocky minerality. 500 cases produced.

Price: $95 (though if you can find this in Europe it seems to be closer to $60). This is a really cool wine to taste given the backstory on these varieties and the simultaneous elegance and complexity it presents for a Corsican wine. If you can find a bottle, I highly recommend giving it a try. Pair this with lamb, wild boar, veal, or charcuterie and cheese.

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