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.

Hi Derek -
Have you been back to Clos Fornelli or re-tasted their wines? How are they doing?
I tried another bottle of Robe d'Ange again last autumn in Cap Corse, and it was still excellent. I will (hopefully) be meeting up with Fabrice at a wine fair in London later this month, so I guess they're doing OK!
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