For the Love of Corsica

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Nearly 40 years ago, Antoine Arena stunned his family by announcing he was quitting law school on the French mainland to return home to their vineyards on Corsica.

“When I told my father I was quitting my studies to make wine, he didn’t talk to me for three months,” says Arena. “It was a [point of] shame for him.”

Arena’s father, who sold wine in bulk to Corsican bars and restaurants, wanted his son to escape to a more secure life than viticulture in the Patrimonio appellation, carved into a hilly northern corner of the island.

In Corsican, patrimoniu means “heritage.” But by the 1970s, the region, which had been named Corsica’s first Appellation d'Origine Contrôllée in 1968, had hit bottom. The vineyard area had shrunk to a tiny fraction of what it had been in the postwar years, while production of cheaper wines on Corsica’s eastern plains boomed and the island’s overall reputation plummeted.

Arena, whose grandfather had known Patrimonio as a “little Burgundy,” yearned to restore its legacy, and he enlisted his Corsica-born wife, Marie, who was studying law with him in Paris.

Though Corsica is part of France, the island, located just north of Sardinia and west of Italy’s Tuscan coast, has a proud independent streak.

“I told her our place is not here [in Paris]—it’s in Corsica helping revive the agriculture,” says Arena, “In the beginning it was not a passion for wine—it was a love for Corsica.”

At nearly 63 and nearing retirement, the charismatic winegrower...read the full blog at winespectator.com