On the eastern edge of Corsica above the coastal town of Aleria on the Tyrrhenian Sea sits Clos Fornelli, a family property of 45 hectares, 18 of which are planted to vines. Owner Josée Vanucci and her husband Fabrice Couloumère organically farm classic Corsican varieties like Vermentinu, Sciaccarellu, and Niellucciu, along with the lesser known white grapes of Biancu Gentile and Genovese, and red grape Minustellu. The AOC Corse vineyards roll along the plains on the terraces of the Bravone River in the Castagniccia mountain range. Different than the more familiar wine regions on the western side of the island, nights in the east are typically cooler thanks to the mountains rising from the sea, shortening sun exposure and thus preserving freshness and aromatics in the wines.
Madame Vanucci’s first vintage was 2005, before which the grapes were in the hands of the local cooperative. Since the beginning, Mother Nature has mentored Clos Fornelli in their mission to produce low-intervention, high-pleasure wines that reveal the characteristics of grape and place. Aiming to keep yields under 45 hl/ha, they practice techniques such as Cordon de Royat pruning, the elimination of secondary buds to prevent future grapes from being choked by too much growth, and leaf pulling to promote ripening and aerate clusters. The combination of low yields and ripe grapes are key factors in bringing out the terroir.
Clos Fornelli soils are clay and alluvial from Bravone River deposits and gradual erosion of the slate mountains. The soils are poor, but deep, providing excellent water supply to the vineyards, which helps them to sustain droughts during the warm, dry summers on the island. With an average vine age of 25 years and the oldest pushing 35 years, the vineyards are well established and thriving in their cooler Mediterranean microclimate.
The various levels of the hangar-style winery allow for gravity fed winemaking. It is equipped with old concrete tanks, temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks for fermentations, a pneumatic press for gentle extraction, and a few large oak barrels for red wine aging, none resembling anything close to “new.” Fermentations are all natural and the wines are bottled after a short time in vat with a commitment to low sulfur additions. There is clearly a gifted hand guiding these wines to bottle as they are not over-worked, but rather, they are just right with their fresh, beguiling aromas and lovely balance. These wines are vibrant, unpretentious and full of charm, with a seriousness that beautifully interprets the climate, culture and history of the island.