"Having had to pinch myself"
-A Small Island Joins the Big Boys
Blanc Général de la Révolution
& Rouge Ministre Impérial
"Collectively, Abbatucci’s wines will stretch your palate, your imagination, and even your notions about what wine is or can be." -David Schildknecht
Last Friday, David Schildknecht, one of the keenest intellects and palates in the business, put the Corsican wines of Jean-Charles Abbatucci on the map. And he did so in a very big way.
There's probably no easier and faster way to highlight just how big than to say he placed two of Abbatucci's wines at the very top of all the wines that he reviewed - right there with the best from Keller, Dönnhoff and Schäfer-Fröhlich.
Essentially, Schildknecht placed Ministre Rouge and General Blanc on the world stage, deservedly so.
More important than scores or rankings, though, he brought these wines to life - their profundity, their beauty, their singularity. They're important and fascinatingly life-affirming wines.
There's no way around the fact that these are not inexpensive wines. However, they are also just incredibly complex and utterly unique. Schildknecht's notes drive this home: For Général Blanc, he writes, it "is among the handful of most profoundly (not to mention improbably) beautiful and delicious white wines that I’ve tasted in the past several years."
For the Ministre Rouge, he writes, "utterly unlike any other red of my experience.... there is a remarkable alliance of textural creaminess with refreshment and levity...leading to a kaleidoscopically interactive, saliva-inducingly saline, uncannily energetic, and virtually endless finish"
Abbatucci's Général and Ministre transcend anything from the island or the world of wine for that matter. I've long had a soft spot for the wines of Corsica. I remember drinking them when I was first getting serious about wine (a benefit of living close to Kermit Lynch's Berkeley store), but I was blown away when I tasted Abbatucci's wines a few years ago. They had a clarity, a balance and a complexity like no other wines from the island. Abbatucci's are the only Corsican wines that we've ever featured in an email (we sent another one back in 2011.)
However, Général and Ministre are game-changing wines, and limited ones - only around 125 cases of Général and 160 cases of Ministre are produced. They are field blends of nearly extinct ancient varietals that Jean-Charles' father planted in 1960. Many grapes are headturningly obscure. General Blanc is composed of Carcajolu Biancu, Paga Debbiti, Riminese, Rossola Brandica, Biancone, and Vermentinu; Ministre is made of Sciacarellu, Niellucciu, Carcajolu-Neru, Montaneccia, Morescono, Morescola and Aleatico.
Both Général and Ministre introduce a level of complexly layered Mediterranean herbs with flowers and an incredible combination of the poise and palate presence that's hard to put into words. They really stand apart. They are subtle wines; with each smell and each taste another dimension seems to be revealed. (Please check out David Schildknecht's notes below.)
Abbatucci's vineyards are on pink granite soils near the island's capital of Ajaccio. It's here that Abbatucci spoils his vines, adhering strictly to biodynamic methods and stretching his care to the most far-fetched details: He even plays traditional Corsican polyphonic music in his vineyards and cellars. It might sound far-out... but it also highlights his level of dedication. I guess, too, the wines themselves emphasize that.
Abbatucci's Général and Ministre remind us just how lucky we are to be living in a period where people can elevate marginal places and grapes to a world-class level. Think of Ganevat in the Jura, or Belluard in Savoie. These are wines that push our palates and remind us about the potential for great wines beyond the famous regions.
To order, please email us at email@example.com or call the store at (212) 980-9463.
Crush Wine & Spirits
2010 Abbatucci Blanc Général de la Révolution & Rouge Ministre Impérial
Général de la Révolution Blanc
David Schildknecht: "Just to get this out of the way up front, Abbatucci’s 2010 Cuvee Collection Blanc General de la Revolution Jean-Charles Abbatucci – his only white in this series from ancient cepages that I’ve tasted (but then on two disparate occasions, having had to pinch myself the first time) is among the handful of most profoundly (not to mention improbably) beautiful and delicious white wines that I’ve tasted in the past several years. Vinified in older demi-muids – whereas most wines from Domaine Abbatucci, regardless of color, are rendered in tank – it’s sourced (for the record) from Carcajolu Biancu; Paga Debbiti; and diminishing shares – ranging from 15-5% – of Riminese; Rossola Brandica, and Vermentinu. If you’re inclined to shake your head when my ilk go on about sticking one’s nose in a glass and smelling the scrubby, herbal, and floral ambience in which the wine grew and perhaps even the bracing mountain air itself (all of which would in Corsica fall under the term maquis), this wine might make a believer of you. Amid a persistent effusion of thyme, gorse, tarragon, mint, lavender, wild chrysanthemum and ineffable others comes an uncannily buoyant wave of creamy yet refreshing essence of raw almond and pine nuts in a melon and citrus matrix. The effect is cooling and soothing, yet refreshing and (in more than one sense of that word) uplifting, with a finish whose mesmerizing flavor interplay is almost ceaseless. The first edition of this roughly 1,500-bottle cuvee came in 2006. So even if I had experience from its inception, I doubt I would be positioned to predict longer-term bottle evolution. But I’m pretty confident that evolution will be positive. (Since this wine is legally forbidden from advertising its vintage, you’ll need to verify that from the first two digits that appear in tiny print on the label after the capital letter "L." The additional numerals identify the specific lot number, but needless to say there is but a single bottling of this rarity.)
Ministre Impérial Rouge
David Schildknecht: "Abbatucci’s 2010 Cuvee Collection Rouge: Ministre Imperial Jacques-Pierre-Charles Abbatucci – which receives minimal elevage in older demi-muids – is utterly unlike any other red of my experience (and thus far it’s the sole red wine in his series from ancient cepages that I’ve tasted). Geeks among us please note that this mind-bending cuvee comprises – in diminishing proportions of 22-8% each – Sciacarellu, Niellucciu, Carcajou-Neru, Montaneccia, Morescono, Morescola, and (hey, I recognize this one) Aleatico. An eerily lovely evocation of herbal and effusively-flowering scrub akin to that of the corresponding white, General de la Revolution soars from the glass accompanied by sweetly ripe, high-toned evocations of fresh and distilled cherry and strawberry. Here too – but even more strikingly given that the wine’s red – there is a remarkable alliance of textural creaminess with refreshment and levity, harboring only the faintest and then most mouthwateringly tea-like impression of tannin. Mint, tarragon, tonka nut, and pronounced piquant evocations of cherry pit and almond, accent and set into relief a luscious, polished, yet palate-stimulating torrent of fresh strawberry, cherry, and blood orange whose sense of sweetness would ordinarily only be approached in a wine of over-ripe flavors. But here the impression is entirely fresh-fruited, juicy, and buoyant, leading to a kaleidoscopically interactive, saliva-inducingly saline, uncannily energetic, and virtually endless finish. I lack any experience to speculate on the maturation of this ca. 2,000-bottle cuvee (first rendered in 2007). Methinks, though, that many of us will count ourselves lucky to be able to witness that evolution. (To verify vintage, consult the first two digits that appear in tiny print on the back label immediately after the capital "L.")"