The wine making culture in Corsica is one of the most traditional in France, with domains often run on a small scale and indigenous grape varieties grown above all else. In Patrimonio, the most northerly appellation on the island, some growths like ‘Grotte di Sole’ are becoming recognised across the world, and this is thanks to the honest and exceptional work of wine makers like Julie Marfisi and her brother Mathieu. They represent the 5th generation to produce superb cuvées at Clos Marfisi.
Founded in 1870, Clos Marfisi now cultivates 14 hectares of vines in the Patrimonio appellation. In 2011, Julie decided to join her father, Toussaint, at the domain with the aim of carrying on the family tradition whilst her brother followed a brilliant career in finance in the French capital. However, just four years later, the call to home was too strong to resist, and Mathieu also returned to his native island to help out.
Patrimonio is, without a doubt, one of the most dynamic appellations in Corsica. There is a constant project on the part of the wine makers there to develop the area, all whilst respecting its fantastic biodiversity. This means, for example, that there are only 400 hectares of vines planted on a surface area that could happily accommodate 4,000 hectares. A little anecdote, whilst Mathieu was unable to work on the vines for a few months, it was the sons of Jean-Baptiste Arena, their famous wine-making neighbour, who stepped in to lend a hand!
Let’s take a look at the exceptional terroirs the Marfisi family work on:
- Ravagnola: an area of 10 hectares on a clay-chalk slope less than a kilometre from the sea. In the white wines produced here, you can really taste this marine influence through its salty notes. The undersoil is made up entirely of chalk, which is perfect for keeping the vine fresh during the long heat of the summer.
- Gritole: located further inland, this 2-hectare parcel is the fruit of a wonderful geological blend of clay, chalk and alluvial. The wines produced here are notably supple and easy to drink.
- Grotta di Sole: this exceptional 2.5-hectare parcel is made up of clay and chalk soil veined with schist and is located on gentle slopes exposed to the south-east. Here, the domain mainly produces white cuvées from Vermentinu grapes with delicious citrus notes.
The domain’s philosophy is above all to stay small-scale. Julie Marfisi and her brother lie to be able to give as much time and energy as they can to each of their parcels, to each of their vines. Whilst the domain only converted to biodynamics in 2018, this was only because Toussaint was decidedly phobic to admin (aren’t we all..?). In actual fact, the vines grown here have never been treated with chemicals throughout the whole of the domain’s existence.
In terms of managing Clos Marfisi, there is no oenology consultant. All of the decisions are made by Julie and Mathieu, though they don’t hesitate to seek advice from their knowledgeable parents when needs be. Whilst they recognise the importance of furthering the domain’s founding principles, they haven’t held back in making some important changes in the production process. For example, they greatly reduced the sulphur in all their cuvées and put an end to fining and filtering the wine.
In terms of style, the red wines undergo gentle macerations that soften them, bringing extra freshness. Maturation in concrete vats, demi-muids and amphora allow the micro-oxygenation necessary for good ageing potential whilst avoiding the effects of an oaky barrel.