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One Brilliant Bottle

organic/biodynamic/natural wines in Vinland

Clos Canarelli Vin de Table de France

France (Corsica)

biancu gentile

A wine from the island of Corsica — a first for me. I do very much like the Corsican singing group I Muvrini…but the grape ‘biancu gentile.’ Never heard of it. That is, until I picked up the bottle and my caviste friend in Saumur let me in on the secret, given that the name of the varietal is nowhere to be found on the label of this wayward ‘vin de table’. I brought it across the Atlantic, cellared it until the shorelines of my own island witnessed the annual phenomenon of small smelt-like fish – capelin – surging ashore to spawn. It seemed to stir the need for a wine that is equally out of the ordinary.

Clos Canarelli Vin de Table de France 2010

The colour is outstanding – a rich buttery yellow. And on the nose a whiff of caramel, of overripe pear, cider-like almost. It is already something special. Richly flavoured, full of history. Smooth and balanced, yet entirely its own wine. Great character attack. I’m thinking a glazing of mineralized liquorice. Complex and robust without losing its dignity. A wine not to be forgotten. $$

This wine is 100% biancu gentile, a grape native to Corsica, and until recently in danger of disappearing. One of the men behind the effort to reestablish it is Yves Canarelli, and his 25-hectare domaine in the extreme south of the island (the region of Figari) produces what many consider the grape’s finest expression. Here, small yields of small-size grapes lead to greater impact from the grape skin, contributing to an intense, complex flavour.

The soil is granite-based, poor by most standards, but mineral-rich. The roots are forced deep, constantly absorbing the minerals in the process. Biancu gentile and the other native varietals (including vermentinu, sciaccarellu, and niellucciu) which Canarelli has reintroduced seem very much at home. Obviously, they are native for strong evolutionary reasons and it would seem to make perfect sense that they would thrive, despite the rough soil, despite the intense heat of the Corsican summer.

Canarelli has been fully biodynamic since 2006. Although falling outside the constraints of the appellation (thus, the ‘vin de table’ designation) there is little trouble finding a market for the biancu gentile, or for his other wines, both white and red. There is curiosity about this out-of-the-way wine region to be sure, but curiosity has given way to considerable respect for what has been achieved by a return to traditional grapes and traditional methods of viticulture.

With thanks from one island-dweller to another. Now, would you mind bottling up some of that summer heat and sending it along as well.


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