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 0.4 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 distiction. 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!
A few words by Frank himself…
“Our farming philosophy is based on our acceptance of the fact that man will never be able to understand nature’s full complexity and interactions. We therefore choose to concentrate on observing and learning the movements of Mother Earth in her various energetic and cosmic passages and prefer to follow her indications as to what to do, instead of deciding and imposing ourselves. Consequently this has taken us to avoiding all possible interventions on the land we cultivate, including any treatments, whether chemical, organic, or biodynamic, as these are all a mere reflection of the inability of man to accept nature as she is and will be. The divine ability to understand the ‘Whole’ was obviously not given to man as we are only a part of this complex and not God himself.”
In the winery his work follows the same philosophy of using what nature provides him. There are no industrial yeasts, sulfites, or anything else added to the wines. All of the wines are fermented in small, neutral tanks and no wood is used in the cellar in order for all the wines to express their specific territory to the full extent. Frank uses neutral epoxy tanks and anforas because he likes the round shape which allows the wines to be nourished with the fine lees moving freely during the aging process.
Our “Grand Vin” from our Barbabecchi vineyard at 910 m asl. Planted around 1910 and North-North East exposed, capturing the first morning sunrays. This pure Nerello Mascalese from ungrafted old vines produces a profound wine, rich as well as elegant at the same time with character and personality: liquorice and oriental spices. Only produced in great vintages where we achieve full phenolic ripeness.
This pure Nerello Mascalese comes from our old vine alberello cru Porcaria,
situated at 640 m. asl.
A special location, although more difficult to achieve perfection in maturation compared to the other crus.
It has the power but a refined elegance in the right vintages and worthy of a cru when everything falls
This pure Nerello Mascalese is a blend from our 3 highest vineyards
(Vigne Alte): Barbabecchi, Guardiola and Tartaraci.
It expresses beautifully the value and precision of the old vine, ungrafted Nerello Mascalese on the high terraces
in the Northern valley of Mount Etna.
Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Cappucino, Alicante Bouchet
50% Nerello Mascalese, Malvasia, Cattaratto
A gorgeous rose from etna made with skin contact, powerful and intense.
A white wine which is produced just like red wines in full contact with the skins throughout the entire process of fermentation. Vineyards are located between 750 and 1,000 meters.
The vines are from a very old and ungrafted vineyard plot. It is a blend of 70% Grecanico Dorato,10% Coda di Volpe, and the remaining 20% is Cattaratto and Caricante.
A rich and fragrant wine of pure Nerello Mascalese. This 9th edition is no longer a multi-vintage blend but instead is now a single vintage wine from different vineyards: Chiusa Spagnola, Marchesa Soprana, Monte Colla and Porcaria.
A classic, traditional Nerello Mascalese with tannins and sweetness of ripe fruit.
Frank’s interpretation of a traditional Etna wine
This pure Nerello Mascalese comes from his cru in contrada Monte Colla. It is an extremely steep vineyard, beautifully exposed to sun and wind and right in front
of mount Etna.
The soil is sandy clay and the old-vine Nerello Mascalese was planted in 1946.
The grapes achieve a different expression here. He calls it his Hermitage of Etna.
This pure Nerello Mascalese comes from his ungrafted cru Chiusa Spagnola,
situated lower in the valley floor and a bit hidden (like a treasure!).
A uniquevineyard due to the fact of being ungrafted at a lower altitude (620 meters) and the extreme rocky site which is surrounded by pure volcanic rocks.