Corsican wines fight their corner for survival

Tue Jun 30, 2009 7:12am EDT
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By Marcel Michelson

BORDEAUX (Reuters Life!) - Corsican wine growers are seeking recognition beyond their faithful band of followers as European Union uprooting plans and high transport costs in crisis times threaten to sound a death knell for the sector.

Corsica is the third wine producing island in the Mediterranean, behind Sicily and Sardinia of Italy and its production of some 350,000 hectoliters (9 million U.S. gallons) of wines make up just a few percentages of the total French production. But the sector is the biggest export activity in value and volume of the island and, together with the tourism sector, one of the pillars of an insular economy.

According to Bernard Sonnet, the director of the Corsican winemakers organization CIV Corse, demand for Corsican wines tops at least 500,000 hectoliters a year, but prices are relatively low -- most are below 10 euros ($14) a bottle, many below 5 euros.

That is partly the fault of the Corsicans themselves.

In the 1960s, Algerian independence saw many Corsicans flock back to the island, where a race to production ensued and the island made some two million hectoliters of wines a year. Not all of it was of good quality.

More recently, however, there has been a lot of attention to quality and there are now nine AOC wines (appelation d'origine controllee) that have to adhere to quality guidelines.

The production of the year 2007-2008, at 340,340 hectoliters, was for one third in AOC and two thirds in vins de pays and vins de cepages.

"There is too much wine in Europe and France and the decision by the European Union to impose uprooting campaigns has reduced our production," Sonnet said, adding that another 10 percent of the wine growing area was set to be cleared.   Continued...