Cult favorite. Drinks like a very light red, with hibiscus and cranberry, with a slightly peppery twang
field blend of grapes from 50 year old vines: Nerello Mascalese, of course, and also Malvasia, Moscadella, and Insolia. Grapes are harvested by hand then destemmed, gentle press, 10 day maceration, then finish spontaneous fermentation in epoxy tanks with indigenous yeasts. Not fined, no added sulphur
Frank Cornelissen is the owner of 19 hectares of vines rather high up on Mount Etna. Uniquely, he has been involved in wine his entire life. As the son of a wine broker in Belgium, he had the opportunity to be immersed in wine on a professional level from a very young age. Frank went on to produce his first wine in 2001 when he started with only 0.40 hectares of vines.
Frank is obsessive over details in an effort to make wines that truly express terroir with perspective. He is a meticulous vineyard worker and keeps an extremely clean and organized cellar. The evolution in his wines are intriguing as well. Earlier vintages were linear, angular, precise, and full of minerality. He has often said that in the early days his goal was to create liquid stone. His wines have softened with time now striking balance between fruit and dynamic minerality. While there are are many important details in his winemaking method, the key is in the vineyards. Frank is not Sicilian, so choosing Mount Etna was deliberate. The main reason to choose the North Valley of Etna was for its it’s incredible and unique diversity of volcanic soils that have an immutable voice. This in tandem with Etna’s primary varietal Nerello Mascalese, he believed he could make wines of great complexity and distinction. He has describes Nerello Mascalese to be somewhere between Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo. Frank’s best wines have the dry and sharp tannins you find in great Nebbiolo, but with the lusher fruits of Pinot Noir.
Frank works without the use of herbicides, pesticides, nor any other chemicals. He occasionally uses biodynamic treatments, but not in the ways outlined by biodynamic calendars as he feels his vineyards have their own unique schedule.
Field blend of Nerello Mascalese, Malvasia, Moscadella, and Insolia
Region: Etna DOC (Sicily)
Etna is an Italian wine DOC which covers the slopes of Mount Etna, the 3330 meter (10,920ft) active volcano that dominates the northeastern corner of Sicily. The Etna DOC was the very first in Sicily, created in August 1968 and followed nine months later by that of Sicily's most famous wine, Marsala.
The Etna wine-producing zone arcs around the eastern side of the volcano, from Randazzo in the north to Santa Maria di Licodia in the south. The graduated topography creates a smooth spread of mesoclimates, as the land climbs up from near-sea-level to more than 1200 meters (3940ft). The highest of Etna's vineyards now rank among the highest in Italy (and even the world), easily matching those of Alpine Alto Adige.
Etna's wine producers are experimenting with vineyard sites further and further up the volcano's slopes, to gauge the effects of the richer, blacker lava flow soils and increased altitude. This most extreme terroir may be tempting fate, but the cachet of owning high-altitude vineyards is growing, and early results from these vines show promise.
From almost anywhere on Etna's slopes, looking eastwards will reveal quite how much light the glinting Mediterranean reflects back up onto the vines here. The local growers make much of this effect, which is similar to those reported around Lake Geneva and along the Mosel. They talk about how it helps to ripen the grapes more completely, even at cooler, higher altitudes. Ripeness is almost never a concern in Sicily, a place famous for its hot, bright, persistent sunshine (at a latitude of 37°N, it is far from the coolest of European wine regions). Etna's higher slopes are almost the only place on the island where temperatures fall sufficiently low to cause concern for ripeness. In fact, far from posing problems, the cooler temperatures are actually helpful, and offer the luxury of a cooler, longer growing season.
Tasting: Hibiscus, cranberry, slightly peppery twang
Pairing: Grilled shrimp, fried sardines, Mediterranean couscous