Let me take you for a journey to the world of one of the most interesting winemakers: from the black-soiled vineyard to the glass. When I asked Frank during my trip to Sicily, why he has chosen Etna almost 19 years ago as his new home, I was pretty sure that it had to be some beautiful Sicilian woman that inspired him to stay. Or mesmerising landscapes around Etna. Well, the reason was a bit less romantic. Or… romantic enough.
Winemaking (and the matter of wine at all) requires lots of time spent on learning and hard work, but once you are into it, you just can’t let it go. If you are a wine lover, there is a big chance that you’ll become a well-educated wine connoisseur or even a sommelier. Or if you sell wines, maybe you will end up as a winemaker.
1. Making wines was the only reason he moved to Etna
That third option was quite natural for Frank Cornelissen. Based in Belgium, Frank used to work in international wine business before he moved to Sicily. He was buying and selling wines from Burgundy and Bordeaux and you can easily ask him for virtually everything about wines from these regions. The idea of being even close to wines emerged and finally, he started to think about perfect terroir for his own wines. From white MunJebel Bianco Classico to refined Magma Rosso, the rest of this story is enclosed in various wine bottles. So, it’s not love or another silly sentiment. Just wine. But hey, isn’t Etna romantic enough in all its fiery majesty?
2. Eight parcels are not his last word
This variety of wines comes from 8 parcels called contrada. It’s the source of not only cuveés but also mesmerizing, terroiristic single vineyard wines of status that can be compared with French crus. In search of new, exceptional expressions of volcanic wines, Cornelissen explores constantly the northern slopes of Etna and buys new parcels.
3. Copper sulphate and sulphur are the only weapons in his vineyards
And only in minimal quantities added when necessary. It’s worth to mention that vineyards, cultivated biodynamicly, are interplanted with various fruits trees and other plants to let the bees do their job and to keep the complexity of this local ecosystem.
4. He uses only one method of vinification
To reflect the character of the place and grapes, Frank tries to make vinification of all wines as unified as possible. That, of course, doesn’t mean to simplify the whole process. Sometimes he uses epoxy coated terracotta amphorae, but most of the wines are put into smaller or bigger, but always neutral, shiny epoxy tanks. According to Cornelissen’s philosophy, no oxygen and wood make up are needed to underline the character of Nerello Mascalese and Capuccio, Carricante, Cataratto and other, more obscure indigenous Sicilian varieties he grows, such as Minella Nera and Bianco or mysterious Grecanico Dorato,
5. Corks look like mini-spaceships
Frank’s winemaking is an interesting mix of tradition and high-tech. It also pertains to the method of closing the bottles. Elegant, black artificial corks are additionally secured with the graphite plastic caps at both ends. All this for the sake of not spoiling the wine and not letting to touch it with even one molecule of O₂.
6. He prefers Zalto glass
It’s senseless to describe the character of Cornelissen’s wines in few words, but certainly, I can say that all of them are full of natural, fruity energy, yet precise and elegant. Every wine is distinctive, but all of them are vibrant, fresh and have this intense, signature nuance of lava that assures you that you’re drinking wine from the active volcano.