Closer to Italy than mainland France, the mountainous Mediterranean island of Corsica moves at a slower, less formal pace than the European continent. One-fifth of the land is covered by fragrant, wild herbal scrub called maquis, similar to southern France’s garrigue, notes of which are often perceived in local wines. Modern highways here are supplemented by twisting roads that pass through villages and run along gorgeous beaches. Between green-coated peaks and secluded shorelines are small towns where you can dive into local dishes like cannelloni au brocciu or chestnut polenta, served with regional wines. —Tom Mullen
Where To Dine
Located 40 minutes north of Propriano, a popular beach-resort town, Restaurant Le Frère is associated with winery Domaine Comte Abbatucci. It’s a family operation run by three Abbatucci brothers: Jean-Charles is in charge of winemaking, Henri is the chef and Jacques oversees the cattle farm. A meal here is an opportunity to sip biodynamic wine and taste beef and veal dishes from the farm’s cows. In northeast Corsica, visit La Roya near coastal Saint-Florent, where seasonal, local fish is the star, though the menu also includes other options, like a fillet of pigeon with olives.
Where To Stay
Along the northern Patrimonio wine route, Hôtel La Dimora features suites with terraces that command a view of the nearby mountains. After a dip in the pool, unwind at the spa’s hammam, or Turkish bath. In the south, visit the Lavezzi Islands or Sdragonato coastal caves before a return to Hotel U Capu Biancu to explore its wine and cheese cellar. Within Corsica’s capital city of Ajaccio, seek out the quieter beachside Hôtel Les Mouettes, located right on the Route des Îles Sanguinaires.
Options for outdoor activities are plentiful. Snorkel or dive near stunning grottos at Scandola Nature Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can also visit dozens of 16th-century Genoese stone watchtowers along 600 miles of coastline, sleep in mountain huts along the GR 20 trail that transects the island, or deep-sea fish north of Calvi or off Saint Cyprien.
Hôtel U Frascone, in the hillside commune of Venaco, is a boutique option that includes a bar, breakfast room and patio with generous valley views. Stunning trails await just outside your door, while an array of activities, as well as a restaurant, are a short walk away.
Where To Taste
From north to south, Corsica is dotted with diverse wine-tasting opportunities, many of which include spectacular views. Choose a cluster as your focus for a day. Drive an hour south from the city of Ajaccio to neighbors Domaine de Vaccelli and Domaine de Pratavone. Vaccelli Owner Alain, or his son, Gérard, will pour Vermentino that tastes of fresh tropical fruits, while their two rosés, mostly made from the Sciaccarello grape, are delicate treats. Further south, sample Domaine Fiumicicoli’s oaked Cuvée Vassilia, made from Bianco Gentile and Vermentino, or Myrtus, a red blend from nearby Domaine Sant’Armettu. Far north, launch west from Bastia to taste rich Muscat from Yves Leccia in the Patrimonio appellation, then navigate past coastline vistas to visit wineries along Cap Corse. Upon your return, scoot west to the Calvi region for rich red Domaine Maestracci blends.
When To Go
Spring or fall. Harvest is over by mid-October, when temperatures turn friendlier.
Many Corsican wines produced within the island’s nine official appellations are of excellent quality. Recent decades have seen a revival of local grapes that grow on hotter, drier lands than those on mainland France. The mountainous geography generates diverse microclimates where more than 30 indigenous grapes grow, many with flavors influenced by maquis. Both Nielluccio and Sciaccarello grapes produce popular reds. The former, found primarily in the north, is tannic and related to Sangiovese, while the latter has softness and is situated mostly in the south. The island’s white wines are predominantly made from Vermentino, though in the north, Muscat remains legendary.
Local In The Know
Marc Imbert is co-owner and winemaker at Domaine de Torraccia in southern Corsica. He insists the island’s dining is best during spring, before summer tourism peaks and fresh ingredients are depleted. On hot days, head to the mountains to dine and enjoy local wines. “The mountains and island here provide ideal vine-growing conditions, and the influence of maquis scrub allows Corsica to be a great place to make organic and biodynamic wines,” he says.