Frank Cornelissen – Etna

Mein Gaumen wird die erste Verkostung von Franks Weinen nicht vergessen. Das erste Mal verstand ich, dass Weinmachen ohne Schwefel Sinn machen und den Geschmack eines Weinbergs und der Trauben daraus geschärft hervorbringen kann.

Cornelissens erste Jahrgänge waren nicht immer transportfest oder lagerstabil. Seit dem Umzug in den neuen Keller, klinisch sauberer Weinbereitung und kühler Lagerung sind die Weine auch ausserhalb Siziliens langzeitstabil und sauber.

Frank Cornelissens Weine sind nun präzise wie nie zuvor, sie riechen und schmecken wie die Trauben in den Weinbergen in denen sie stehen. Der perfekte Start für eine Reise in die verschiedenen Lagen und Weinbergsböden des Etna.

Hier die Weine von Frank

Frank Cornelissen an seiner Korbpresse

Hier die Worte von Manfred Klimek zu Cornelissen in der „Welt“

Zum Aktuellen Jahrgang hier die Worte von Eric Guido of Vinous ‚Sicily: Welcome to the Revolution‘, June 2022

INTRODUCTORY NOTES ON FRANK CORNELISSEN:What can I say; Frank Cornelissen is at the top of his game. I think back over the last fifteen years that I’ve been tasting these wines, and I can honestly say that I have never seen such precision, purity and consistency as I’ve seen tasting the last few vintages. It all seems to have come to an apex with the 2019 crus. The best part is that 2020 is expected to be an even better vintage, and the Munjebel Rosso tasted in this report has heightened my anticipation.

What has Cornelissen changed? Actually quite a bit. In my interview with him, he plainly stated, “My wines used to be anti-wines.” He came to Etna in the early 2000s with the idea that this was one of the few locations on earth where wine could be made without any manipulation. Mistakes were made as he learned along the way, but with time, the style of Frank Cornelissen became renowned. Unfortunately, they also became renowned for being undependable. I remember a time when I would tell people that finding a perfect bottle is very difficult; but when you do, it’s pure magic. It was because of this that many collectors became turned off to the brand, especially when you consider the price tag attached to the single-vineyard wines. Today, Cornelissen admits that his first ten years were very experimental and that he took things too close to the edge. This is still a winery that practices extreme biodynamic principles across their twenty-four hectares and eschews overhandling of the wines in the winery and cellar. However, there have been a number of changes to the process. For one thing, their team has grown, which allows for better precision pick dates and sorting. Aging and refinement is now completed in epoxy-lined fiberglass tanks, while the subterranean terracotta is reserved for small-batch projects. The wines are bottled sooner, but held longer prior to release in an attempt to capture more purity of fruit and “crunch”. Sulfur is now used, but only as necessary, and in very low doses. And then there are the stems, as since 2018 (a very difficult vintage that required drastic experimentation), Cornelissen has started using 10-15% of the stems in the fermentations. Taking all of this into consideration, one might expect the wines to have changed quite a bit, yet I still find Frank Cornelissen magic, just without the fear and guesswork of what to expect from bottle to bottle. They are ripe, sapid, full of life, with balanced structures and transparent to terroir. What’s more, they only get better the longer they are open in the bottle.

As for the 2019 vintage in front of us, while many producers will talk about how happy they were with the year, Cornelissen will explain that the excellent result was one of selection, not nature. The winery dropped around 20% of their normal single-vineyard production in the sorting room to weed out the faulty berries within each bunch. In my opinion, the result is a selection of wines that readers will not want to miss.

2020 Munjebel Rosso
Almost as if lava stones and ash could be infused with raspberry and black cherry preserves, and then brushed with grilled sage and, finally, add a burst of white pepper–the 2020 Nerello Mascalese Munjebel Rosso bursts from the glass. This feels more like juice than wine with its energy and verve, yet it’s potent all the same, with silken textures excited by reverberating acidity, and saturating ripe red fruits that seem to sizzle upon the palate. It leaves a dry staining on concentration and gentle tannins, but also a flourish of inner sweetness to balance it all out, as rosy inner florals fade. The 2020 is a simply stunning and wickedly fresh Nerello Mascalese. Munjebel is a blend of fruit from Frank Cornelissen’s vineyards across the northern valley of Etna
Eric Guido, June 2022 Drinking Window: 2022-2027 EG93/100

2019 Magma Rosso
It’s almost impossible to pull away from the 2019 Nerello Mascalese Magma Rosso, with its beguiling bouquet of white pepper-tinged dusty rose offset by nuances of tangerine, pomegranate and the slightest hint of animal musk. This is a seriously textural expression, with smooth contours and admirable weight that’s perfectly balanced by stimulating acidity. Its fruit is decidedly red and sapid, yet with violet-tinged inner florals and sweet minerality. While structured, the 2019 maintains fantastic energy throughout the long yet remarkably fresh finale, as licorice and hints of hard candies slowly taper off into oblivion. While a year of cellaring is recommended here, I can’t help but suggest that readers check in on at least one bottle sooner than later to enjoy its primary power. The fruit for Magma hails from the Barbabecchi cru in the North valley between 870-910 meters, with its ungrafted vines that are over 100 years old. After a sixty-day maceration, the wine is vinified completely in neutral epoxy tanks.
Eric Guido, June 2022 Drinking Window: 2023-2030  EG97+/100

2019 Munjebel Rosso FM (Feudo di Mezzo Sottana)
The entrancing 2019 Munjebel Rosso FM (Feudo di Mezzo Sottana) blossoms in the glass, with a dusty mix of sweet minty herbs and bright cherry complemented by a hint of cinnamon sugar. Its textures are like pure silk slowly draped across the palate, creamy, smooth, yet lifted and refined, delivering ripe red and hints of blue fruit under an air of lavender and violets. A pleasant inner sweet lingers on, along with a coating of fine tannins, as residual acids and hints of sour citrus maintain a lovely balance. The word “radiant” comes to mind and stays with me throughout the entire experience. Bravo. The Munjebel FM is a 100% Nerello Mascalese produced from the lower elevations of the Feudo di Mezzo cru. This is pure class.
Eric Guido, June 2022 Drinking Window: 2023 – 2028  EG95/100

2019 Munjebel Rosso MC (Monte Colla)
The 2019 Munjebel Rosso MC (Monte Colla) is deep and inward in character, but also remarkably pretty. This dark beauty wafts up with dried cherries and crushed rocks complemented by nuances of rosemary and balsam. It greets the palate with the silkiest of textures and ripe wild berry fruits, yet with a core of nervous acidity that builds an energetic tension. This is like the proverbial iron fist in the velvet glove, tapering off long with talcum-like tannins, as sweet tobacco and lavender tones fade over a contrasting savory bitter twang of balsamic spice. It’s an utter beauty, and it’s already showing so well. The Rosso MC is from the steeply-terraced Monte Colla vineyard, with its seventy-five-year-old Nerello Mascalese vines planted in sandy clay soils.
Eric Guido, June 2022 Drinking Window: 2023 – 2028 EG94/100

2019 Munjebel Rosso CR (Campo Re)
Woodsy herbs and wet stone take on an air of white smoke and peppery florals as the 2019 Munjebel Rosso CR (Campo Re) unfolds in the glass. This takes its time, slowly opening, as wild strawberries, stems and all, lazily come to the fore. It’s seamlessly silky and pliant upon entry, cool-toned as well, with a mounting saturation of red berries toward the close, adding an almost-chewy sensation. While structured with angular tannins, there’s a burst of inner sweetness that adds balance, as notes of fresh tobacco mix with licorice and hard red candies to create a finish that seems to linger on and on. The CR may be the longest lived of Cornelissen’s 2019 Rossos, but also the one that will take the most time to come around. The Campo Re hails from the western part of the northern slope of Etna at around 735 meters. The wine undergoes indigenous fermentation, followed by fifty days of maceration on the skin and eighteen months of refinement in epoxy tanks.
Eric Guido, June 2022 Drinking Window: 2024 – 2032 EG93+/100

2019 Munjebel Rosso VA (Le Vigne Alte)
The remarkably pretty 2019 Munjebel Rosso VA (Le Vigne Alte) blossoms in the glass with a vivid mix of crushed cherries complemented by fresh mint leaf and hints of camphor. This is a pure and finessed expression, seemingly weightless at times, with juicy acidity that excites the palate, as violet-laced red berries and hints of cinnamon give way to edgy tannins toward the close. That said, while a tug of youthful structure resides, the expression remains remarkably fresh, with an almost-black tea-like coating of residual tension that lingers under purple- and blue-toned inner florals. Le Vigne Alte is a blend of Cornelissen’s highest-elevation vines from the Tartaraci, Rampante Soprana and Barbabecchi vineyards. It’s the understated beauty of the lineup.
Eric Guido, June 2022  Drinking Window: 2023 – 2027 EG92/100

NV Munjebel Rosso Perpetuum 2
The NV Munjebel Rosso Perpetuum 2 is airy and perfumed, with sweet white smoke blowing off to reveal nuances of dried strawberries and rose petals. It’s soft-natured and round in feel, with juicy acids that maintain a marvelously fresh impression, as mineral-tinged red fruits settle upon the senses. The finish is long and only lightly tannic, more of a structural accent, as hints of licorice and plum skin slowly fade. Give it an hour in decanter and drink heartily. This is the second release of the Perpetuum, a solera-aged wine that was started with the 2015 vintage. At this time, the wine would contain juice from the 2015 through the 2019 vintages.
Eric Guido, June 2022 Drinking Window: 2022 – 2026 EG90/100