Corsica wines are made on the Mediterranean island of Corsica - the wines of which are primarily consumed on the island itself. Corsica is located 170km southeast of France, 90km west of Italy and 11km north of the island of Sardinia.
Though it has been a French territory since 1768, many of the region's winemaking traditions and its grape varieties are Italian in origin.
The viticultural history can be traced to the island's settlement by Phocaean traders in 570BC in what is now the commune of Aléria. During the late 7th and early 8th century AD, the island came under Islamic rule. Wine production was severely limited due to the Islamic prohibition of alcohol.
In the early Middle-Ages, Corsica first came under the rule of the city of Pisa in the Tuscany region, then in the 13th century under that of the Republic of Genoa. It was during this time ampelographers believe that a clone of the Sangiovese grape was introduced to the island which became Nielluccio.
In 1769, the future French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte was born in the Corsican city of Ajaccio to a wine-producing family. It was under Napoleon's rule that Corsica was allowed to export wine duty-free across the French Empire. The phylloxera epidemic of the late 19th century dealt a crippling blow to the Corsican wine industry, and was followed by a period of mass depopulation as Corsicans immigrated to other countries.
Between 1960 and 1976 the vineyard area in Corsica increased fourfold. The overall quality of Corsican wine was poor due to the emphasis on quantity over quality. In the 1980s, the European Union began issuing subsidies to encourage the uprooting of vines and to renew focus on limited yields and quality wine production. By 2003, these programs had contributed to a reduction of over 7000ha of vineyard plantings in Corsica, as well as the introduction of modern winemaking techniques and equipment such as temperature-controlled fermentation tanks.
The island of Corsica is the most mountainous island in the Mediterranean. The climate is warmer and drier than mainland France. During the month of July, the mean average temperature is 23.3°C. The average annual rainfall for most Corsica's wine growing regions is 730mm, with 65mm during the harvest month of September. Very little rain falls during months of August and September allowing for a dry, rot-free harvest for most vintages. Throughout the mountainous terrain there are several meso-climates created by the differing degrees of altitude, latitude and maritime influences. Along with several different soil types found in the wine growing regions of Corsica.
Today, Corsica has nine AOC regions including the island-wide designation Vin de Corse AOC. The majority of the wine exported from Corsica falls under the Vin de Pays designation Vin de Pays de l'Île de Beauté (Country wine from the Island of Beauty) - accounting for two thirds of the island's entire wine production. The Patrimonio region on the north coast was the first to receive AOC designation when it was established in 1968. On the west coast is a large region located around the island's capital city of Ajaccio which includes some of Corsica's highest elevated vineyards.
The generic Vin de Corse AOC covers the entire island and includes the smaller sub-regions of Vin de Corse-Coteaux du Cap Corse, Vin de Corse-Calvi, Vin de Corse-Figari, Vin de Corse-Porto Vecchio and Vin de Corse-Sartène AOCs covers specific regions and generally commands lower yields than the Vin de Corse AOC. The Muscat du Cap Corse AOC includes the ‘vin doux naturel’ wines produced in the northern peninsular of the island. The three leading grape varieties of the region are Nielluccio, known as the spice wine of France, Sciacarello and Vermentino.