2021 Domaine Comte Abbatucci, Cuvée Faustine” Vin de France Rouge, Corsica, France.
The beautifully textured and aromatic Faustine Rouge, a blend of Corsica’s now native and most common grapes, 70% Sciaccarellu and 30% Niellucciu, is medium bodied, deep garnet hued and ultra clean wine with pretty layers of black cherry, red currant, plum and wild berry fruits, a touch of stony minerality, rose petals, orange tea, spicy cigar wrapper and warm earth. The Faustine lineup is Abbatucci’s fine entry level estate bottlings, with this wine, which has Vieilles Vignes on the label, comes from vines that range up to just shy of 65 years and are set on the Ajaccio region’s almost pure granite soils. The grapes, Sciaccarellu, originally Etruscan and the same as Mammolo, still found today in Tuscan and mostly in Montipulciano and is mostly a blending, has found a welcoming home here in Corsica, where it shines, even when a solo varietal, and Niellucciu, which is the same grape as Sangiovese, has also been on the Island a long time and has gone native. It is thought that centuries ago, pre-Roman times, that the Etruscans came to Corsica and Sardinia to learn ancient metal working and traded with the islands and may have brought both varietals to Corsica. This wine just gets silkier and more striking with air and especially with food, its transparent flavors going wonderfully with an array of hearty dishes. This wine was made using just stainless steel and cement tanks, no wood was needed, with gentle handling of the grapes, which were macerated and fermented separately, then aged for just 6 to 8 months usually before being blend in tank, settled and bottled, to preserve freshness. I’ve reviewed this Cuvée Faustine and its sister offerings that include an old vine 100% Vermentino or Vermentinu as they call it here, which is as brilliant as it gets, and a gorgeous steely crisp Rosé, which is made from 90% Sciaccarellu and 10% Barbarossa, another ancient grape found here.
Jean-Charles Abbatucci, one of the most eccentric and most praised vignerons on Corsica comes from Island nobility, he’s the ancestor of his namesake Jean-Charles Abbatucci, a famous general under Napoléon Bonaparte and a hero of the French revolution, runs an all biodynamic estate just south of Ajaccio, making some of the most intriguing wines you ever taste. Abbatucci’s almost equally famous importer Kermit Lynch explains that Jean-Charles farms, what he calls a pristine poly-culture ecosystem, that comes complete with herds of sheep foraging through his vines, groves of olive trees on ancient terraces, and large swaths of untouched forests, all of which along with precise winemaking imparts a true sense of terroir and varietal character, though most of the wines are unique blends, hence the Vin de France rather than regional labeling. His vines, Kermit adds, come from cuttings of indigenous grapes, sourced decades ago high up in the isolated and mountainous interior of the island and from elderly peasant farmers, which has effectively saved several native varieties (or clones) from extinction. To keep his vines happy, the mentioned eccentric Jean-Charles is known to drive his tractor out to his vineyards and play traditional Corsican polyphonic songs or native music over loudspeakers for their benefit, and the results in the wines makes me hope he continues this practice. The upper end bottlings at Abbatucci are outrageously good and uniquely stunning and wildly expressive because of the rarity of the production, as well as demand, they include white and red offerings with varietals you’ll probably only ever taste in these wines, including Carcajolu Biancu, Paga Debiti, Riminese, Rossola Brandica and Biancone in white grapes, as well as Carcajolu-Neru (from Sardinia), Montanaccia, Morescono, Morescola and Aleatico (from Greece) in red grapes. If you’ve not had Abbatucci and Corsican wines, I highly recommend you try them, this Cuvée Faustine is a great wine to start with!
($42 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive