The Balagne, a fruitful stretch of the north-west coast, known as the Garden of Corsica, is home to one of the island’s oldest, driest and most serious appellations, Vin de Corse-Calvi.
Vines have been grown here since the 13th century, and though current acreage is now less than half of its original 700 hectares, its reputation is high.
Rosé and red wines form the lion’s share of production, with whites accounting for a meagre 12%. Etienne Suzzoni at Clos Culombu, in the communes of Montegrosso and Lumio, is one of the real characters among Corsica's winemakers. Larger than life in every way, he has championed the cause of fine wine from Corsica, where till now so much of the wine has been produced by under-performing co-operatives.
From his 55 hectares he makes fine examples of that Corsican staple, rosé, excellent reds from nielluccio (aka sangiovese in Italy) and sciacarello (a native grape) supported by syrah, grenache and cinsault, and full-flavoured whites from vermentino, which dominates among the island’s white varieties. However, before vermentino came to dominate in Corsica, there were other varieties planted and these are slowly being reintroduced, especially by some of the more forward-thinking growers like Etienne. Anyone for riminese, genovese , brustianu, cordivarta, biancu gentile, or cualtacciu? They all find their way into bottles from this estate with one eye on the traditional and one on the innovative.