Those of you following my journey via Instagram may have seen that I was recently soaking up the wine… er, I mean *sun*… in Corsica, France. I got back to Germany in the beginning of September and have been meaning to get this post up since, but, well, it’s harvest time so cut a girl some slack, aight?!
First off, a few ‘deets’ for those of you who may not know exactly where Corse (Corsica) is and don’t feel like googling.
Corsica is a mountainous island in the Mediterranean Sea located about 10km North of the island Sardinia and about 90km west of Italy’s main peninsula. The winemaking traditions there are of Italian origin – the main grape varietals being: Nielluccio, Sciacarello and Vermentino but the island belongs to France. It has nine AOC regions with an island-wide Vins de Pays de l’Île de Beauté designation, which translates to ‘Country Wine from the Island of Beauty’ – And an island of beauty it is!
We stayed on the Balagne Coast in a beautiful little place called Algajola between Calvi and Île Rousse. I wish I could have stayed longer than a week to see more of the landscape and culture, but this girl makes too many plans and harvest waits for no one!
Before my visit to the island I’ll admit, I knew very little about Corsican wines. I had read up on some producers in the area but the one that really spiked my interest was Richard Spurr, an English-Irish winemaker and founder of Enclos des Anges in Calvi.
Yes, that’s right. I travelled all the way to Corsica in search of local, traditional wines and ended up visiting the only winery on the entire island which is run by a foreigner.
We followed our GPS app out of Algajola towards Calvi until the signal cut out, at which point we’d made it just far enough to see the first of a series of small wooden Enclos des Anges signs. Following them down a long winding road we passed the luxurious Relais et Chateaux Signoria Hôtel and shortly after that the road turned to gravel. We were surrounded by vineyards of old bush vines with a gorgeous mountain range in the background. At the end of the road stood a huge yellow warehouse with a similar wooden sign and a devils pitchfork tacked up near the door. We had arrived!
Though I didn’t know it to be him at the time, Richard (a tall, slender, rockstar-looking type with earrings and camo-trimmed shorts) greeted me in a Corsican French accent. On the phone he had sounded so British! I stuttered trying to find my French but somehow ended up answering him in German – which, as it turns out he has a pretty good handle on as well.
Spurr founded Enclos des Anges in 2007 after gaining his experience in Spain, Italy and other parts of France (mainly Montpellier where he met his wife Marjorie – a consulting professor of œnologie). Located in the subregion of Vin de Corse-Calvi in the northwest part of the island, Spurr works out of an abandoned Michelin warehouse near the Calvi airport. The space is enormous and is spread out over 4 floors.
“I can work in here for about 54 years before filling it” he joked before telling us that he often gets fed-up with running up and down 4 flights of stairs and just jumps off the wall to get down!
Most of his vineyards were planted in the 60’s by the Michelin family who had a home nearby and a handful of wineries at the time – their home has since been converted into the 5-Star Hotel that we passed on our way in.
From what I understand, the wines are divided into two main lines: Semper Fidelis and the base range of Enclos des Anges White, Rose and Red. ‘Semper Fidelis’ is a latin phrase that means ‘Always Faithful’. It is Calvi’s motto and refers to their loyalty to Genoa. Spurr explained that he also considers it a personal philosophy which he demonstrates through his devotion to the Corsican varietals.
We started with the rose. It was bursting with raspberry and spice and had plenty of bright acidity, which Richard explained is typical for the Sciacarello variety and that even at it’s maximum ripeness the acid doesn’t drop off too much. It was a great way to kick off our experience (and set the bar high!). I’ll be ordering myself more of that soon!
His Vermentinu is round, rich and complex with green apple, peach, grapefruit pith, purple flowers and even a hint of curry spice on the nose – The perfect refreshment after a long hard day at the beach. #lifestruggles
The reds were my favourite. Full of red and black cherry, spice & tobacco with fine tannins and smooth texture. I loved the Semper Fidelis red – a blend of 70% Nielluccio & 30% Sciacarello and will definitely work on getting some to Germany soon! All of his red wines are left to age on the fine lees in concrete vats for a minimum of 1,5 years.
He also let us try his precious old Grenache from which his yield was a mere 7 hectolitres per hectare!!! If you’re having a hard time imagining just how little that actually is, consider this: When the planting density is a minimum of 4000 plants per hectare, the average yield that comes from it is about 45hl/ha… so … 7hl/ha is veryyyy little and thus hella precious!
It was incredible by the way, but is sadly not for sale.
All of his wines are aged in concrete and made 100% organically – and believe me, it’s no marketing gimmick. His relationship to nature was as real as his rock&roll vibe. He not only practices his beliefs in the vineyards and in the cellar, but he also raises his own animals on the property – one of which I became particularly fond of – Sophie the pig. She even had her own night-light built on to her personal clubhouse!
Now trust me, I’m no vegetarian. But after hopping the fence to play with her myself and seeing her close bond with Richard I was pretty sad to learn that in 6 months my new friend would be… well, sausage. I was already thinking over a rescue mission in my mind when Richard reminded me where the pork I would find in my local grocery store comes from and how those animals are usually treated. I guess Sophie was a pretty lucky girl after-all. Plus, I suppose it might have been a bit of a long shot to think that I would have just breezed through airport security with my new friend the shoe-loving pig…
Richards winemaking approach is centred on low yields, ripe fruit, natural balance and minimal intervention. The very same minimal intervention method that he also applies to his sales technique I suppose! “I’m like an ostrich with its head in the sand” he said shrugging. Every now and then someone comes along looking for great Corsican wines and they’ve just got to kick him in the ass to get his attention! Must be nice when your wine sells itself!
I guess I’ll be giving him a boot sooner than later to get some more of that wine over to this neck of the woods!
Anyone else interested in a taste?