Day 22: 2007 Frank Cornelissen Munjebel Bianco 4

There were a few winemakers that were on my list of must haves to talk about during these 31 Days. One was Nicolas Joly, who has been covered, another is Frank Cornellisen. Finding Joly’s wines, even if someone didn’t take care of the post for me, is realatively easy. Cornelissen’s wine on the other hand is not. Cult in the real-non-California-speculator-wine sense of the word, Cornelissen has inspired a worldwide following of devoted followers for his ultra-natural style. As such i wasn’t able to track down a bottle to properly write about (although i did have a little with contributor Jon Bonne). Luckily for me California to Norway transplant, sommelier, winesalesperson, and natural wine fan Joseph di Blasi was kind enough to loan me a post on these otherworldly wines. Enjoy!

Date tasted: June 2nd, 2009 15:00(3pm)

Frank Cornelissen owns about 12 ha on Mt. Etna in Sicily. He’s a non-interventionist who says “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.”

Frank & Alberto at the top of ‘Rampante’, the pre-phylloxera vineyard at 1010m altitude located above Solicchiata on Mt Etna after the devasting forest fire of 3 full days & nights.

On a postcard I recently received, he goes on to say “To produce a bottle of genuine, natural wine, the recipe is simple: take large quantities of dedication, determination, intuition and coherence. To these ingredients throw in a strong dose of masochism in order to physically and emotionally survive the difficulties and downsides of this ‘Art of Wine’. Finally, enjoy a glass (or more) of this wine, before sending the rest around the world to good homes.”

Of all the “natural” wines I have tasted, Frank’s are always the most interesting. I am not saying that his wines are the most well-made of the natural wines I have tasted, but his are always the most engergetic. And, definitely the most natural tasting compared to his counterparts. From the very rustic labeling, to the almost opaque wines that are very obviously not filtered nor fined.

This “orange” wine is no exception. Made from the local (white grapes) Grecanico Dorato, Coda di Volpe, Carricante and Cattaratto grapes, this orange wine is barely see through. This cloudy wine is so packed full of sediment that I swore I could see chunks of grapes floating towards the bottom of the bottle. Of course this is a “slight” exaggeration, but it sure made me happy knowing that this wine was made from something (grapes) that was growing wild in the vineyards, and nothing else. His wines are the most natural of the natural wines I have tasted, and this wine was no exception. His wines have a certain “energy” about them which is hard to put in words, but they make you feel good.

The grapes for this wine come from various vineyards on Mount Etna owned and cared for by Frank. Frank harvests the approximate 13ha/hl of grapes totally by hand. The bunches of grapes are put into a destemmer and crushed, not pressed at this time. This machine is more of a crusher than a destemmer as it hardly removes any of the stems at all.

The must is then placed into plastic containers in his backyard (no temperature control here) which are then covered with a tent-like plastic material to keep the rain out. Of course only indigenous yeast here. The wine is left to spontaneously ferment and macerate with the skins for about 4 months giving the wine it’s apricot-hued glow. The wine is then pressed into Amphorae with the help of gravity and then bottled. Absolutely nothing else is added to this wine. Nothing. Not even SO2 (Sulfur Dioxide). The wine is not fined nor filtered before being bottled and this is evident. Since Frank bottle’s his wine without filtration, the last wines bottled have more sediment than the first ones.

First tasting 1500 (3pm):

Appearance: A very cloudy, unfiltered appearance. Loads of sediment which are very visible to the naked eye. In the glass, the wine has an apricot juice hue with a medium intensity. It is hard to analyze intensity with an unfiltered wine of this type (wine with high intensity glows can indicate a high level of intensity and vice versa).

Nose: Apricots with hints of minerals and loads of farmyard (those of you familiar with red Burgundy know what I am talking about). The distinctive (for me) Cornelissen pickle juice. Dry hay and flowers.

Palate: Wild just like the other Cornelissen wines. Typical. A little tingle at the front of the tongue initially from the slight residual CO2, which quickly burns off with a little swirling of the glass. Medium minus tannins. High acidity, but not harsh, just mouth watering and mature. Pickles and smoke. Kumquats. Essence of apricots and peaches, but not sweet. Bone dry with around 2g/liter of residual sugar according to my palate.

Second tasting 1809 (609pm):

Nose: Much more pickles and farmyard. Less distinct apricots. The apricot aromas I do get are of unripe apricots.

Palate: Medium minus tannins. Rosemary, sweet yellow fruit at the back end, apricots. Finish is long and persistent with mild tannins, great acid and smokey flavors. The wine sits and sits.

Interesting to note that although the wine was dry, it paired well with sweeter dishes. It worked well with my honey and lemon marinated chicken. It was also working surprising well with my Mexican Cactus Fruit.. Strange….

I’m always fascinated with the fact that the few bottles of natural wine that I manage to keep open a few days seem to only improve.

Follow day by day here:

Up next: A visit to Jean Paul Brun; or: The perfection of simplicity

~ by Cory Cartwright on July 12, 2009.

9 Responses to “Day 22: 2007 Frank Cornelissen Munjebel Bianco 4”

  1. I feel these wines need more than a week of opening time. I think my last bottle came around after 10 days. Sorry, but I didn’t find 3 hours making any kind of dent in it. :)

  2. Jack,

    Thank you for your comment. I have left many bottles of Franks’ wine’s open for a week and at times longer. Although I do find that they open quite a bit on day two and three and four, by day 7 and 8 I have often found that the wines often become a tad volatile.
    This being said, I do find that Franks’ wine’s and other completely natural wines I have tested can stay open for days longer than “conventionally” produced wines, very often improving by day 6, 7 or 8.
    On a recent experiment I conducted, another (unnamed wine) was still brilliant 10 days after being open. My only reasonable explanation for this is that these natural wines are alive to begin with and remain this way for longer once opened.

    Joseph Di Blasi

  3. Joseph: I think I should have mentioned that I had it most of the time in the refrigerator, not on the counter.

    On a related note, Italian Wine Merchants had a recent Gravner open at cellar temperature for more than a month without it fading.

  4. Always interesting to follow the progress of Vinosseur. I see his knowledge maturing and deepening and the respect that he earns growing every day. He is becoming a world expert not only in biologic (organic) but also conventional fine wines.

  5. BTW: The anonymous bottle pictured in my Day 12 posting was a bottle of Frank’s Rosso del Contadino!

  6. Robert,

    I noticed your Rosso del Contadino! Made me smile!


    Thanks for clarifying. I usually leave my wines at cellar temperature and occasionally in the fridge. Amazing about the Gravner! I once tasted Occhipinit’s Il Frappato that had been in a decanter for close to 30 days and it was stunning!

    Dr. Bob,

    Thanks for your encouragement, keep it up!

  7. […] makers to contribute to the site. Be sure to read Guilhaume Gerard’s frankly dogmatic manifesto, Joseph di Blasi on Frank Cornelissen in Sicily, Lyle Fass on natural in Germany, Joe Manekin on Spain, Brooklyn Guy on Bernard Baudry’s Rose and […]

  8. […] nowhere has more been written about the wines of Frank Cornelissen than at Saignee and, ubi major minor cessat, I will defer to Cory’s excellent blog for a treatment of […]

  9. […] nowhere has more been written about the wines of Frank Cornelissen than at Saignee and, ubi major minor cessat, I will defer to Cory’s excellent blog for a treatment of […]

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