Domaine Comte Abbatucci wines from Corsica represent what is finest about the French island region’s quality production. Jean-Charles Abbatucci prides himself on the fact his wines are authentic and produced according to bio-dynamic methods. Abbatucci wines are already distributed in the UK through London-based specialist wine merchant Dynamic Vines, which is run by Frédéric Grappe.
The Domaine Comte Abbatucci estate belongs to Jean-Charles Abbatucci, who was the first one, in Corsica, to introduce bio-dynamic methods in winegrowing, back in 1999. A few more estates in Corsica have since adopted this approach to agriculture, but it remains relatively rare to this day.
Frédéric Grappe, who is the London-based owner of Dynamic Vines, distributes Abbatucci wines in Britain. He explains: “The role of a sommelier, especially the new generation, is to discover new talent, new horizons, and Jean-Charles Abbatucci fits into that category. Corsican wine has not been on the wine list [in the UK] for a long time – it’s still a discovery.” It offers something new, exciting, high quality and “a new style of wine that appeals to connoisseurs and enlightened amateurs”, adds the owner of Dynamic Vines.
Abbatucci has three ranges of wines on offer. The entry-level wine is an Ajaccio AOC (white, rosé and red); it is only sold in Corsica. (AOC stands for Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée, and represents an official attestation of origin for wines sold in France.)
The Cuvée Faustine, for its part, represents the top-end of the domain’s output; it includes red, rosé and white wines. The wine in this range is imported into the UK. Indeed, Britain is one of the biggest markets for Cuvée Faustine outside Corsica, together with mainland France. In restaurants, it is sold at £50 to £60 per bottle.
The Cuvée Faustine, in volume, per year, represents about 5,000 to 6,000 bottles for white; 6,000 to 8,000 bottles for rosé; and about 10,000 bottles for red. Other countries where the Cuvée Faustine has started being sold include Japan, the USA and Canada (Quebec province).
Finally, the Cuvée Collection is the latest and was started in 2006. It includes three wines, with two white wines and one red wine. Cuvée Collection now represents the very top end of the wines that the domain offers, even more exclusive than the Cuvée Faustine.
The origin of the Cuvée Collection will be of particular interest to wine enthusiasts. JC Abbatucci’s father had a patch of land planted with indigenous Corsican grape varieties. In the 1960s, all his fellow winegrowers were uprooting those “old” vines and re-planting with standard grape varieties commonly found in mainland France, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, among others.
JC Abbatucci’s father wanted to preserve those old, local grape varieties for posterity. He felt they were part of “an important part of the Corsican heritage”, explains F Grappe. Over one hectare of land, there are about 18 different grape varieties.
In 2006, the estate launched the new Cuvée and the wine was made out of a mixture of the grapes found on the old patch of land. There are three main blends, one for red and two for white. The output is small. Around 5,000 bottles are produced each year, with two whites (3,000 bottles in all) and one red (2,000 bottles). For the British market, Abbatucci allocates a total of 120 bottles of red and 120 bottles for each white, which gives an idea of how exclusive the Cuvée Collection is, in the UK.
In 2008, JC Abbatucci decided to increase the area cultivated through grafting the old vines onto the roots and base of other vines he had, in another part of the estate, on higher ground. In all, vines covering four hectares were grafted with the ‘old’ grape varieties. About 95% of the plants survived, so it was a clear success, increasing the surface area by as many acres. The Cuvée Collection’s total output is expected to have been multiplied by two by the end of 2011.
This wine is not only rare, it is also of superior quality, stresses F Grappe. The white retails at about £60 per bottle, and restaurants typically charge £120 to £150 per bottle. Prices for the red are comparable. Paradoxically, because the – old and local – vines used are not part of the French AOC system, which, in fact, they pre-date, the Cuvée Collection cannot gain the AOC status and is marketed as vin de table (i.e. in the category known as ‘table wine’).
In France today, the organic approach to agriculture (including winegrowing) is gaining momentum. Around 20% of wine producers have switched to organic and, among them, approximately 80% have opted for bio-dynamic methods. The organic/bio-dynamic movement is not actually new as such. It started in the 1920s. The bio-dynamic approach integrates the organic approach but goes further and is more demanding. For instance, bio-dynamic producers take into account the lunar calendar and the phases of the moon (which have a major impact on winegrowing).
Growers point out that they have chosen the bio-dynamic approach in order to produce wines that are better and more natural – quality wines with a difference. With this approach, no chemicals are used at all. F Grappe explains that Nicolas Joly launched the bio-dynamic movement in France in 1984. He is a Loire Valley winegrower. The movement grew in the 1990s.
The bio-dynamic movement started in France’s winegrowing sector and has become quite big in Italy. On a much smaller scale, there are bio-dynamic estates in California and in Australia. In England, at present, there is one producer of bio-dynamic wine.
It is important to understand that, from the moment a winegrowing estate switches over to bio-dynamic methods, to the moment its output reaches its peak in terms of quality, the process can take up to 10 (or even 15) years. In other words, after 10 to 15 years, and from then onwards, the estate is truly bio-dynamic, in the fullest sense. This is also linked to the fact that the maturing of wines takes longer with this natural process. Interestingly, and as already alluded to, many such wines are not AOC-certified.
For further information about Abbatucci, please go to:
About Dynamic Vines
Frédéric Grappe was trained as a sommelier. For 10 years, he worked, mostly in the UK, in various prestigious and well-known restaurants.
In 2006, he launched his company. What triggered it off was a wine-tasting session with Nicolas Joly’s association, Return to Terroirs. F Grappe felt he could identify with what the movement stood for, and he wanted to be part of it.
Dynamic Vines is an importer of wine into the UK. F Grappe works for about 40 domaines or estates, over 30 of which are based in France. The others are in Austria, Italy, Spain, and Chile.
Among its clients, Dynamic Vines counts many big names in British fine dining, including Claridge’s, Alain Ducasse, Gordon Ramsay, and Murano.
For further information about Dynamic Vines, please go to:
Domaine Comte Abbatucci was one of the estates featured on 17 May 2010, on the occasion of the successful wine tasting organised by CIVC, the Corsican winegrowers’ trade association, in conjunction with the French Trade Commission UBIFRANCE, at La Trouvaille, the well-known restaurant located in Central London.
CIVC, i.e. CIV-Corse (where CIV stands for Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins), the Inter-Professional Wine Board for the region of Corsica, is headquartered in Bastia and was set up in 1996. CIVC represents a range of wines produced across the French island-region of Corsica.
For further information about CIVC, please go to:
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