Andrew Guard

Patrimonio


Antoine Arena is one of the most respected vignerons in France and certainly the most well known from the isle of Corsica. He is not just famous for the brilliant wines produced at his estate but also for his chemical-free, diligent farming. He has taken his estate from Organic to Biodynamic certification over the past five years.

Since the 1970's he, with his wife Marie, and now joined by his two sons, Antoine-Marie and Jean-Baptiste, has tirelessly worked to establish a reputation for excellence and independence showing the world what his land in Patrimonio is capable of. His is a story of hard work and success.

From 3 hectares in the beginning they have all worked with a determined approach to identifying the finest terroir and have been able to increase the size of the vineyards today to 14 hectares.

The 3-ha plot that is called "Carco" is an example of his determination. Like nearly all the land within the 500-ha Patrimonio appellation, this parcel has a limestone-rich chalk and clay soil. The steep south-easterly-facing slope was originally planted with olive trees and Arena determined that it would make a great location to plant vines; the only drawback being that it was completely covered with limestone boulders, some gigantic!

Nevertheless Arena spent the better part of a year smashing, blasting, carrying and crushing the boulders resulting in a spectacular viticultural amphitheatre. The vineyard was planted to two hectares of native red Niellucciu grapes (related to Italy's Sangiovese) and one hectare of white Vermentinu. I feel it makes their finest wines.

All the wines are elevaged in stainless steel tanks, not barrels, and with minimal intervention. Alcoholic fermentation can take up to a year, and malolactic fermantation is left to its own devices. The natural acidity from the grapes and the minerality derived from the stony terroir gives the wines their definition.

The result is whites that remind me of the cherubic paintings of Raphael; round, soft and aromatic but which also reflect the essence of the limestone/clay terroir with their sapid freshness. The red wines have wonderful ripe, fragrant aromatics fruit with smooth, succulent tannins that can seem stoic in their youth but are always captivating and rewarding.

Arena's wines are utterly original and are of the highest quality as you might expect. They are very rare and we are lucky to have them.


 

Written by Andrew Guard — June 16, 2012