The mountainsides of Corsica rumble with the echoes of a long and tortured history. This island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, about 50 miles (80 km) west of the coast of Tuscany and 100 miles (161 km) south of the French Riviera contains some of Europe's most beautiful scenery. No larger than Puerto Rico, the island boasts a varied terrain that brings to mind the Alpine slopes, the semi-arid plains of the North African Maghreb, and the pastoral valleys of northern Italy. Many invasions by European powers over the centuries have left their mark on Corsica's landscape and way of life. Every part of the island has its own local dialect and distinct traditions. These are some of Corsica's most important resources.
Yet Corsica has been experiencing a renaissance in the early 21st century, after a period of economic and cultural decline following World War II. Key to the island's return to prosperity is a new commitment to old practices of small-scale agriculture and artisanal, gourmet culinary production. Viticulture plays a leading role in Corsica's economy, contributing about one-third of the value of the island's agrarian output [source: AGRESTE Corse]!
Some wines of Corsica are among the finest in Europe, but only a small amount of wine is produced for export. Three native vines comprise the basis for most of Corsica's fine wines. The Sciacarello, found only in Corsica, and the Nielluccio (similar to the Sangiovese grape found in Italy), separately or together, produce reds and roses; the Vermentino is the basis of whites. These robust, rustic wines bear the imprint of the local soil and climate conditions.
What historical and cultural factors have influenced this island's wine production? Read on for a whirlwind tour of the history and culture of what the French call "L'Île de Beauté."