Friday, April 07, 2006


Columbus and Columba - both may be Corsicans

When you arrive in Corsica by boat or plane, you may be tempted to stop at a restaurant and ask for a beer or order a meal with a bottle of the local wine,

The beer may well be a Colomba - with a stern picture of a hooded figure on the can. The wine when it arrives could be a wine from the Calvi region - Clos Colombu. No cowled figure on the label, but questioning will reveal that Calvi is supposed by some to be the birthplace of none other than Christopher Columbus.

If you remember your history, you'll probably recall that the discoverer of the New World was sponsored by Spain, but that he was by birth an inhabitant of pre-unification Italy. So how come the great man came to be born in Calvi? The truth is, nobody knows where he was born, but ancient records have revealed that a man of that name was known to have lived in Calvi at around the right date. And - here's the intriguing bit - Calvi was well and truly under the control of Genoa in the mid to late 1400s.

So that explains Clos Colombu's branding. How so the beer? I have no idea why delicious, aromatic Colomba is so named. I very much doubt if Saint Colomba ever visited Corsica. Perhaps the name derives from the name of the Corsican temptress in the Mérimée novel Colomba. Perhaps the slightly effeminate image on the packaging is of a young Corsican girl rather than an under-nourished Celtic monk. I'm sure someone will eventually tell me who it is.

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