Corsican Varieties


Aleatico is a red grape variety used to make sweet wine. It mainly grows in Apulia and Lazio in Italy, but it is also used to a far lesser extent in Corsica. It is thought that Aleatico is related to Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains, making it a member of the Muscat family. Wine made from Aleatico apparently offered comfort to Napoleon during his exile on the island of Elba.

The sweetness and flavour intensity of Aleatico wines depend on the heat in which the vines grow, with the sweetest, richest wines coming from the warmest terroirs. The wines are generally high in alcohol and carry notes of lychee and berries.


Barbarossa – or “red beard” in Italian – is a light red grape variety found on the Italian mainland and in Corsica. It produces medium bodied reds with fruity aromas and has excellent ageing potential. It is thought to have got its name from the 12th century Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I – Frederick Barbarossa. Much of the production of Barbarossa is used in rosé and grappa.    

Bianco Gentile

This ancient white grape variety is native and exclusive to Corsica, and only really returned to use in the mid-1990s following its rediscovery during a viticulture census. As of 2008, there were thought to be six hectares of Bianco Gentile vines in Corsica. Its name translates as “nice white” or “noble white”.

Bianco Gentile wines are generally full bodied, and feature strong aromas of tropical fruit and wildflowers, with flavours of white peach, lime zest and minerals. While the variety can be used to make varietal wines, it is more often blended with others, such as Vermentino. The vines of Bianco Gentile are highly vigorous, and bud and ripen early. During this time, they accumulate a high concentration of sugar. Growers need to ensure that grapes are harvested on time, as if they are left too long on the vine they will see a noticeable drop in acidity. They are also susceptible to powdery mildew. Among growers currently experimenting with this newly rediscovered variety is the University of California, Davis, which is studying growth in the San Joaquin Valley as part of its viticulture extension programme.


This white grape is thought to have originated in Corsica or on the Italian island of Elba, between Tuscany and Corsica, where it is known as Biancone Di Portoferraio. It is grown in extremely small quantities, especially in Corsica.


This rare variety of white grape was thought to be extinct until recently. Its vines were preserved by Antoine Abbatucci in the 1960s, in a successful attempt to keep alive local varieties that were vanishing as international grapes swept to prominence. Brustiano has been found to be genetically identical to the Sardinian grapes Licronaxu Nero and Licronaxu Bianco. The vine is highly vigorous and productive, and careful management is needed to control yields. 


This white wine variety is today only found in Corsica, but it is thought to have originated on the neighbouring island, Sardinia. It is so rarely planted that it was not included in the 2008 French wine census, so there is little data about how much Carcajolo is currently being grown. The name probably comes from caricagiola, meaning “heavily laden” – most likely a reference to the large bunches of grapes that can weigh down the vines of this productive variety. For this reason, the vines, which are mid-ripening, need to be carefully controlled. Wines made with Carcajolo are light to medium bodied with moderate levels of alcohol and relatively high acidity. It grows best in terroirs that are hot and well exposed.

Carcajolo Nero

This red grape variety is known for producing light bodied, deeply coloured wines in Corsica and Sardinia. It is also commonly known as Parraleta or Tinta Caiada, and grows around the Mediterranean. It can be used to make wines with high levels of alcohol and powerful fragrances. Carcajolo Nero is thought to have originated in Somontano, Spain, and is unrelated to Carcajolo/Carcajolo Bianco, despite the similar name.


Also known as Scimiscià or Çimixà in Liguria, where it is thought to originate, Genovese is being brought back from near extinction in Corsica. It is used mainly in blends, and has quite intense notes of pear, lime, peach and chalk, as well as moderate acidity. Scimiscià/Çimixà refers to bedbugs (cimice), as the vine is covered with spots that look similar to their bites.


Corsican red grape variety thought to be a local variant of Nieddu Mannu/Pascale. This vine has large, fat, round berries that grow in bunches of up to a kilogram in weight. Wines made from Morescono are typically high in alcohol and are used primarily in blends.


Also known as Albana in Emilia-Romagna (albus is Latin for white), the Corsican Riminese is sometimes referred to as a “red in white’s clothing” due to its full bodied, tannic qualities. It produces richly-coloured white wines with aromas of tropical fruits and honey. It was first recorded as having been mentioned by medieval agricultural writer Petrus De Crescentiis in the 13th century. The grape has a thick skin and accumulates a high concentration of sugar.


The Corsican name of this white grape literally means “payer of debts”, probably a reference to the abundance of grapes it produces, albeit rather irregularly. Pagadebiti has large, thick-skinned grapes that grow in large, compact bunches. It is known as Rollo in Liguria, Italy.  


A red grape variety that probably originates in Corsica, and which has been used historically in Tuscany with the name Mammolo. It is used to make soft and spicy red and rosé wines with pleasant levels of alcohol and acidity, especially in the Corsican capital of Ajaccio. Until the 1960s, the variety was very popular in Tuscany, with Soderini referring to it in 1600 in both its red and white varieties (the latter of which either no longer survives or refers to a different grape). It is still dominant in the south of Corsica, where 783 hectares were grown in 2008. It is mid- to late-ripening, and grows best in dry soil.


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