Monday, October 16, 2006


First, find your vineyard...

When we went to go and pay a visit to Fabrice and Josée's vineyard in the foothills of the mountains between Corte and Aleria, we never thought it would be quite so difficult to find. Clos Fornelli really is in the middle of nowhere.

It doesn't help that on our map there are two villages called Pianaccia, supposedly 4-5 km from each other. We only needed one. You have to take a turn off the main Bastia road just north of Aleria (there's a little sign that says "Clos Fornelli" but that was our only clue). We drove up a narrow track of deteriorating quality for maybe 6km and finally found ourselves at the vineyard - a wonderful open space with rows of vines of various ages stretching to the mountains in one direction and towards the sea, back the way we'd come, in the other.

The grapes had just been harvested, and I suppose it was a bit of a cheek of me to expect to be welcomed, but we were, because they're hospitable and sociable folk. They'd been up since 6 a.m. and it looked as though they'd been in the cool basement of the winery all day. Dressed in boiler suits, their hands patched purple with the juice of the Sciacarellu and Nielucciu grapes, their hi-tech processing plant was doing its stuff.

"This was really my father's vineyard" explained Josée, "and some of the vines are over 30 years old". The huge storage vats and processing machinery were a different matter however, and some of the technology here borrows from the young couple's previous employment: they'd met each other working for IBM. An hour later we were on the roof of the plant, surveying the orderly rows of precious vines and trying out some samples.

Later that evening, with the memories of our visit still fresh, we tried a bottle of Clos Fornelli's "Robe d'Ange" - a blended red, rich in Sciacarellu, Corsica's only totally unique grape. Josée had given us firm instructions to uncork it half an hour before drinking it.

It was delicious, of course. 2005 was Clos Fornelli's first year - let's hope these two ambitious young wine professionals get all the luck that's going.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


Catherine d'Angeli is back

Catherine d’Angeli is a potter and a sculptress, and she is in the process of building a new workshop, teaching unit and showroom at Santa Reparata in Corsica’s north west – the Balagne.

She’s a Calvi girl. But she has learnt her craft in all kinds of unlikely places. While working as a French assistante at a school in Chertsey, England, she took an evening course in pottery, and from then on she’s never looked back. After gaining a Diploma in Ceramics from the École des Beaux Artes in Vallauris – made famous by its association with Pablo Picasso – she felt she wanted to move back to the place of her birth.

When I met her a few days ago, she was more concerned with architects drawings, getting new windows fitted and installing basic plumbing than in talking high art. All things going well, the new unit should be finished within the next few weeks and she’ll be open for business.

I was permitted to see a little of her work. The sculptures range from human figures to animals – some astonishingly lifelike; some more abstract, with confident lines that indicate the spirit of the animals she loves rather than their exact physical shape. On the pottery front, she’s doing lots of work in the fashionable Raku style at the moment but her range goes much wider than that.

I’ll forecast that much of her subject matter will be about cats over the next few months. She has just acquired two very naughty but delightful kittens who distracted us with their antics during our brief chat. By the time they are a bit more grown up she will probably be ready for her first intake of students.

If you’re interested in learning a little about the art and craft of pottery in delightful and inspiring surroundings, contact Catherine on

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


The Forest of Bonifatu

Head towards Calvi Airport, but instead of turning into the airport complex, go straight on towards Galeria and Porto. Leaving the airport and vineyards behind you, you soon approach a fork in the road where the main road to Galeria goes off to the right and a much smaller road goes straight on.

This is the road you want if you want to go to the Forest of Bonifatu. A few kilometres beyond the junction, the road climbs and the scenery becomes more mountainous. The road ends in a large car park – of a sort – on several levels. Go down to the bottom level and you can take a footpath to the river about 50m below you. Stay at the top, and you can head up towards the GR20 – the arduous footpath highway of Corsica that extends from Calenzana in the northwest to the deep south – a journey of 15 days, for the fit.

We headed down, with my son’s youngster of six months held in a special secure carrying frame. When we got to the bottom we decided to swim in the river. Even in early October, it was freezing. Whenever we come here, the river is always cold. But the scenery is amazing here with mountains visible even from the deepest valleys. There were little trout flitting about in the shallows; but the river was deep enough to swim out of your depth in the bigger pools.

It’s a bit of a drive. Why do we keep coming back here? Probably because it gets near Corsica’s heart in some strange way.

Sunday, October 01, 2006


Gourmandises in L'Ile Rousse

I had to have a French pun explained to me on Friday.

We were lunching at Les Gourmands Disent in L’Isle Rousse with our friend Isy Paschetta and it struck me that this was rather a weird name for a café selling lots of beautiful food in reasonable rather than grotesque quantities.

Isy informs me that this is in fact a French pun. Gourmandise means “delicacy” and the café’s title is more than merited in its spoken version. You can have a selection of delicious lunch selections for around 10 euros; the wine is good; the service is quick and efficient, and the puddings…. are out of this world.

This no-nonsense café, which is just a few metres off the main square as you head towards the Port, is owned by an Anglo-Corsican family. English co-owner Susan also runs a local shop, and her Corsica husband runs a restaurant.

Go to Les Gourmands Disent if you’re in town around lunchtime – it’s one of the cosiest and best value eateries in the Balagne.

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