Today’s Story: Frank Cornelissen
Frank Cornelissen established his winery on Mount Etna in 2001 with vineyards located on the Northern Valley of the active volcano. While the winery is relatively new, Etna was still largely undiscovered as a wine region at that time. The estate currently encompasses 24 hectares, 13 being old vines in the alberello training system, 9 being old vines in modern rows, and 2 being olive orchards. To me, this is remarkable because Frank produced his first wine in 2001 with only 0.40 hectares of vines.
Viewing himself as a steward of the land, Frank adopted a farming philosophy that natural interactions in the vineyards are complex and we should allow the earth to steer farming of grapes rather than laying a heavy hand. To this end, Frank seeks to avoid all treatments on the land such as chemical or pesticide use. The farming is organic (certified in 2010), while some practices of homeopathic or biodynamic farming are also used. Buckwheat is added to soils low in organic material instead of industrial compost, soil-tilling is avoided as much as possible, and local fruits are interplanted in the vineyards to foster bee colonies. Nonetheless, Frank will use treatments such as copper sulphate and sulphur if he absolutely must to keep the vines from dying (this occurred in 2013 and 2015, both very tough vintages).
Today’s Wine: 2016 Munjebel PA
100% Nerello Mascalese; 15% ABV
The Munjebel PA is produced from the Porcaria cru in the contrada Feudo di Mezzo. Situated at 640m above sea level, the vineyard is challenging to farm and harvest though the average age of the vines is 60+ years. This wine is made with destemmed fruit that is lightly crushed, and fermentation is accomplished using only indigenous yeasts. The wine sees skin contact for 60 days during fermentation, is aged in neutral epoxy tanks, and is unfined but filtered before bottling with cartridges of 5 micron. They add as little sulfur as possible, typically ranging from 5-30 mg/l.
The 2016 is pale to medium ruby in color and fairly transparent. This benefits from a little decanting, and I’d suggest serving it in an aroma collector glass such as a Zalto Burgundy. Once this opens up, the nose offers aromas of ripe raspberry, strawberry, red rose, green herbs, tar, smoke, and volcanic soil. In the mouth, the wine showcases flavors of strawberry, raspberry, cranberry, green cooking herbs, scorched earth, and mineral. There is also a prominent rocky component to the wine as well. This is light-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium tannins, and a medium length finish. Roughly 166 cases produced.
Price: $65. Etna wines are starting to jump in price (and justifiably so). While this bottle is on the pricier end, I’d suggest trying some of Frank Cornelissen’s other bottlings to gain exposure to the magnificent wines being produced there. You can typically find the standard Munjebel Rosso for $40 or less. Pair this with meatballs, steak, pork, or tuna.