Domaine de Granajolo
ORGANIC FROM THE VERY BEGINNING: The vineyard was planted in 1974 by Monika and André Boucher comprising an area of 20 hectares which have always been trained following the organic farming, a true must for André Boucher who was considered by the the neighborhood and friends a kind of freak. The 1st organic certification dates back to 1987 and Granajolo was one of the pioneers to reach this status.
The estate is located on granite arena hillsides at the extreme south east of the island in Saint Lucia of Porto-Vecchio where the local varieties thrive: Niellucciu, Sciaccarellu and Vermentinu. André Boucher initially sold his grapes to a local co-op before finding a cellar that agreed to vinify his wine following his organic status.
The first branded estate bottles sold to the market come from the 1992 vintage. In 1999, Monika and André’s daughter Gwenaële Boucher flew to Australia to learn winemaking techniques, although she was very attracted by geology. She learned very quickly, despite having only 23 years at the time, that she was working in an “industry”, far away from the values taught to her by her father, André, a true vineyard lover. The young woman would only remain in the Pacific for six months before returning three years later to André in the Domaine de Granajolo.
In 2003 Gwenaële reset the business project with her mother Monika, basically launching the winery (including building a real modern cellar), while his dad turned his interest more into orchards and fruit agriculture with a 50 hectare estate, obviously organic trained. “Everybody comes back sooner or later,” she says. “Living elsewhere makes us aware of the opportunity that we have here, in Corse. The opportunity of having quality soils for the production of good organic wine”
Just like her father, Gwenaële makes no compromises. Low-key but feisty, she works with other 4 employees on the 20 hectares. “My father was not a winemaker by profession, he learned over time. Twenty years in the Bordeaux region certainly allowed him to acquire coherent skills”
On this winding road Gwenaële is firmly supported by her mother, Monika, who manages the administration. Not to mention Florian, her husband, who takes care of mechanical and domestic maintenance! “It’s a real family affair! Everyone has a role to play. We’re all perfectly in tune and their help is both valuable and indispensable to me.”. Gwenaële has no lack of projects for the Domaine, and with such support the future seems bright.
The 20 hectares of vineyards were planted where once was ruling the classic Mediterranean garrigue in 1974. The vineyard is located only 10 km north of Porto-Vecchio (extreme southeast of the island) and 3 km from the sea side.
The main grapes are Niellucciu, Sciaccarellu and Vermentinu.
The vines are located at the foot of the mountains on slopes with granite sandy soils. They benefit from the ideal microclimate of the region: mild winters and hot, dry and sunny summers, with refreshing sea breezes allowing the production of healthy grapes and perfect maturity. These granitic soils favor deep vine rooting and mark Granajolo’s wines with a distinguished minerality.
In 2003 Gwenaële had to replant pat of the vineyard and started to adopt regularly sulfur and copper treatments. While the older surviving vines have low yields, the new baby ones are now in great shape and vigor. Overall the domaine’s production levels have reached 120.000 bottles in 2014.
On the other hand, the good news is that there are no mildew, oidium or other pests in the vineyard. “Our concern is rather the wild boars that come to eat the whole crop and we had to fence our 20 hectares! “. Another concern is the drought that has raged in the most recent years. “Our vineyard is alive and kicking, perfectly trained to face he summer heat. But the problem is when it does not rain enough in winter, there not enough water reserves and this can create an extra unnecessary vines stress”.
The vineyards’ work is exhausting and it’s a kind of long-term job, throughout the whole year, basically starting with the pruning, a very physical work, from mid-December until the end of February. In April begins the vine’s treatments and according to organic protocols only treatments based on sulfur or copper are allowed. In the field Gwenaële works with micro-doses, but throughout the year.
At the end of July, the grapes change color, and this is the time of the year in which the vineyard must be left quiet to make its’ maturation.
The hardest part is for sure the grass and weeds management. In the Corse climate, grass grows very fast and organic protocols do not allow the use of weed killers. Therefore we need a tractor and a driver all year long so that the soil is left as clean as possible. Generally speaking in organic farming it’s fundamental to observe the vineyard every day in order to quickly react to any potential problem.
Since Corsica is effectively a “mountain in the sea”, each of its many valleys enjoys an individual micro-climate raked by distinct local winds—the frigid Greek ‘Gregal,’ the hot Libeccio, the cold Tramontane and the North African Sirocco. There is also a huge variety of types of soil on the island, all of which are particularly suited to growing vines.
In the 19th century, the phylloxera aphid decimated Corsican vineyards. They were then abandoned during two world wars when men left the island to fight. Between 1960 and 1976 the vineyard area in Corsica increased fourfold. The overall quality of Corsican wine was poor due to the emphasis on quantity and it took a long time before local wines were put on the map. In the 1980s, the European Union began issuing subsidies to encourage the uprooting of vines and to renew focus on limited yields and quality wine production. In the 90s things slowly started to change and Corse viticulture and winemaking made a huge leap forward.
Corsica’s nine wine appellations also include varied soils—generally granitic in the west, including schist to the north and east, and predominantly limestone in both the northwest and south. Granajolo, located in the south-eastern part, has an unusual amount of granite presence in its vineyard.
An additional unique factor that impacts Corsica’s vine terroir is a range of scented vegetation. About a fifth of the island is covered by wild scrub known as the maquis. Odors that affect Corsican wine are going to include fig, lavender and myrtle—which all bloom at about the same time. Like in Sardinia, the whites are pretty grassy and herbal.
Now let’s talk a bit of the local grapes. The Niellucciu is derived from the Corsican word for ‘black and dry,’and is the cousin of the Sangiovese grape planted in Tuscany and other Italian central regions. Someone brought it to Corse in the 12th century and is currently planted all over the island. Niellucciu is robust and tannic compared to another indigenous red—Sciaccarellu, which is more fragile, elegant and suave and includes a high acidity that allows it to age well thriving on granite soils. Whereas Niellucciu can bring on the memory of Rhone Valley wines, the softer, smokier, raspberry and licorice scents from Sciaccarellu can be reminiscent of Burgundian reds. Sciaccarellu name means “cracking under the tooth” because of its crunching, crisp and fresh character. This variety has genetic ties with Mammolo, another Tuscan grape (itself related to Pollera Nera planted in Liguria).
The Vermentinu is also called “Malvoisie de Corse” and this is hands down the most successful wine planted in the island, just the same variety found in Sardinia, Tuscany and Liguria and in the south of France (where is known as Rolle). How does Granajolo’s Vermentinu taste like? Spritely aromas of bay leaf, sage, lemon, and citrus blossom rise to meet you. The wine has a smooth texture and succulent flavors of citrus and wild herbs, with a bitter cut that renders it cleansing and brightly refreshing. Lively, shimmering, and succulent, it would be a perfect mate for seafood, herb-roasted poultry, or fresh cheeses.Highly recommended.
Today Nielluccio grapes constitute a third of the island’s total vine area while Sciaccarello and Vermentino each cover 15% of vineyard hectares.
There are about thirty other island varieties which are making their way in Corse and among them the Aleatico, the Minustello, the Carcajolo, the Biancu Gentile, the Genovese, the Codivarta, the Barbarossa (which makes traditional rosé).
“We sell 60% of our production in Corsica (20% in the domaine, and the rest via a wholesaler), 20% in France, and 20% in export (in Russia, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland and United States)” Gwenaële explains us.
In her winemaking, Gwenaële favors using indigenous yeasts, follows by maceration and fermentation regime, does no fining and ages in stainless steel in order to preserve the freshness of grape variety and show more clearly the expression of her domaine.
Currently Steep Hill imports three wines from this producer.
Blanc Tradition Vermentinu 2018: the soil is marked by decomposed sand and layer of granite. Planted in 1983, vineyards face North-North/East and South-South/West and are trained with the Cordon du Royat system. Density is between 3.330 and 4.000 plants per hectare with manual debudding and mechanic grass removal. Only sulfur and copper sprayed, no chemicals at all. Yields: 30hl pr hectare planted.
Vinification: Direct pressing with a pneumatic press. Fermentation is fully carried out in stainless steel tanks with control temperature between 16 and 18°C. No malolactic fermentation. Lees stirring for 2 weeks. Use of bentonite for protein stability and cold transition for tartaric stability. Aging: 3 months in stainless steel tanks. No fining. Tangential filtration that allows us to add very low sulfur doses while keeping the stability of the wine. Bottled in Feb. and stored in an air-conditioned cellar room.
Rosè Tradition Sciaccarellu Rose 2018: the soil is marked by decomposed sand and layer of granite. Planted in 2007, vineyards face North-North/East and South-South/West and are trained with the Cordon du Royat system. Density is between 3.330 and 4.000 plants per hectare with manual debudding and mechanic grass removal. Only sulfur and copper sprayed, no chemicals at all. Yields: 30hl pr hectare planted. The vinification follow exactly the one described for the Vermentinu.
Rouge Tradition Niellucciu 2018: Fruit sourced from vineyards planted in 1974 with soil marked by decomposed sand and layer of granite. Only sulfur and copper sprayed, no chemicals at all (Pesticides, herbicides, etc). The grapes are totally destemmed. Soft pressing with a pneumatic press connected to the sorting moving table. Fermented in stainless steel vats at controlled temperature (btw 20 and 24°C) for 3 weeks. Racking during the fermentation and at the end of it. Malolactic fermentation. Bentonite used for proteins and tartaric stability. Aged roughly 1 year in stainless steel vats. No fining. Slightly filtrated allowing a very low use of added sulfites. Estate bottled in February and the cases are stocked in a temperature controlled area in the warehouse.
In a nutshell
domaine de granajolo