Domain Jean-Baptiste Arena is a producer with a long family history of winemaking. In both winery and vineyards, his work is without concession; he does everything he can to stay true to his origins and his terroir. The domain is guided by a refusal to use any inputs, the resulting wines are digestible, pure and deliver a great texture, placing them amongst the finest signatures in Corsica.
The Arena family have lived on the island for more than 400 years, Jean-Baptiste’s great grandparents were grapegrowers. For them, wine is something that has been passed down from generation to generation and is very much a part of their identity. The Corsican identity, its unusual terroir, its indigenous varieties and the frankness of its soils and wines. The ever-humble Jean-Baptiste admits that he owes a lot to his forefathers. Other than the introduction of machinery in 1975, the domain’s philosophy remains unchanged: no products are added in neither the vineyards or winery, the soils are tilled naturally throughout the 5 hectares of the domain, and the domain uses almost no sulphites: only one gram is added after harvest. The grapes ferment spontaneously, with ambient yeasts.
Jean-Baptiste admits that he doesn’t like wines “with lots of sulphur, they give me a headache”. His favoured style of wine is defined by digestibility, which he seeks in his own wines by harvesting earlier than he had done in the past. The vines are tended as naturally as possible, resulting in healthy fruit, which makes the work in the winery that much easier. In his reds, he looks for purity above all else. This means élevage in concrete vats, allowing the Niellucciu – the Corsican equivalent of Sangiovese – to be freed from its often overpowering tannicity. He matures his whites in stainless-steel vats on lees for 10 months, imparting another layer of complexity to the cuvées’ texture.
When asked about Corsican viticulture, Jean-Baptiste reminds us that of its very long history. With more than 2,600 years of history, it was strongly influenced by the successive invasions of the Republic of Vienna and the Vatican, which brought their grapes to the island. The 19th century brought the invasions of phylloxera and then the French, which brought a triple culture to the island: French, Mediterranean and Corsican. The renaissance of Corsican terroir began in 1968 and especially after 1975, when Patrimonio was granted appellation status. Patrimonio is the finest terroir of the north of the island, with several types of soils. The schist terroir of Morta Maio bring tension and floral aorlas to wines, whereas Grotte di Sole, with its clay-limestone soil, confers richness and structure to the domain’s red and white wines.
There are currently three domains under the Arena name: that of his father, Antoine Arena, his brother Antoine-Marie and his own, Jean-Baptiste. The domain is slowly but surely being handed down to Jean-Baptiste, and in less than ten years, only two labels will be in production: his own and that of his brother.
What the guides say about Jean-Baptiste Arena
Revue du vin de France (1*/3)
“Jean-Baptiste Arena has been helping his father at their domain since 2003. His style of wine is summed up by energetic, luminous and convincing wines that haven’t ceased to improve.”
Bettane + Desseauve (2*/5)
Jean-Baptiste, son of Antoine Arena and mayor of Patrimonio, now manages a part of the family domain himself: the magnificent Grotte di Sole and part of Morta Maïo, in all, 6 hectares of organically grown vines.
Wines from Jean-Baptiste Arena currently for sale on iDealwine
This 100% Niellucio from the clay-limestone terroir of Grotte di Sole is produced from vines planted in 1992, which lends great vibrancy to the wine. It is raised in concrete for 10 months and only has 1 gram of sulphites added during harvests. Jean-Baptiste recommends aging the wine for 8-12 years. A powerful wine vinified with elegance.
This fortified wine is produced from small-grained Muscat. It is explosive in youth, with intense flavours and an exceptional length. Produced from grapes dried by the sun, this sweet Corsican wine is destined for long cellaring.
This 100% Vermentino from the clay-limestone terroir of Grotte di Sole has a denser profile than the domain’s Vermentino from Morta Maio, whilst still retaining its superb tension. A fine cellaring wine.
This 100% Vermentinu showcases the terroir of the Patrimonio appellation perfectly. Raised in stainless-steel vats, this cuvée offers fine notes of reduction; it is a great cellaring wine and can, according to its producer, age beautifully for 30 years. In the winery and vineyard alike, no inputs are allowed, only 1 gram of Sulphur during harvesting so as to stabilize the wines. This white cuvée is highly digestible in youth. The vines are still young as they were planted in 2014 yet they are massal selections of very old vines.