Frank Cornelissen

Posted by CrushWine

Frank Cornelissen does not come from a long line of winemakers; in fact, it was only in 2001 that the Belgian bought his first old-vine, ungrafted vineyard on the volcanic flank of Sicily's famed Mt. Etna, after being inspired by a bottle of Etna Rosso at a lunch in Sicily, and presumably, falling in love with the extreme, volcanic and mineral-laden soils of this most extreme locale (after all, his most famous wine is named "Magma").

Since then Cornelissen has refined his techniques and his philosophies to the point where he has turned the fundamentals of winemaking upside-down. According to Cornelissen, the way to achieve the best wine is to intervene as little as possible with what the soil gives the grapes. Cornelissen plants vines in low densities to allow for restorative cover crops to be used more extensively. Striving to avoid an agricultural monoculture, Cornelissen has fruit trees, olive trees and two varieties of wheat intermixed within the vineyards.

His use of clay amphorae encourages oxygen transfer (and purposeful oxidization) without imparting the flavors and tannins of oak barrels. On his website, Cornelissen explains that the long macerations are completed "in order not to disturb the complex natural processes of fermentation. The skins, seeds and nascent wine remain unseparated during the entire transformation, maintaining a cosmic link, and enabling extraction of all possible aromas of soil and territory."

Upon opening, you may encounter a slight fizziness which will slowly abate with time (refermentation is not necessarily cultivated, but nothing is done to avoid it either). It's not uncommon to have the same wine show a different face with each new cork that is pulled. Many of the wines are fermented in terracotta vessels and aged in clay amphorae. Macerations can last up to 14 months, even for the white wines, which are quite cloudy - indeed Cornelissen would have it no other way.

At this extreme - on the edge of winemaking - we believe there is true, uncompromising beauty. Cornelissen's philosophies may be radical, but they produce wines that are alive and truly organic in all senses of the word.