Frank Cornelissen

Frank began his career in the wine trade as a wine salesman in his native Belgium. During this time he had his first revelatory taste of volcano-infused Mt. Etna wines. Within a little more than a year, without any training in winemaking, he began his Sicilian odyssey, making his own “liquified rocks.”

Frank’s vineyards are high up on the volcanic slopes of Sicily’s Mount Etna, one of the world’s great terroirs and THE place where the indigenous Nerello Mascalese shines. As Frank says, Nerello possesses the fruit of Pinot Noir and the dry tannins of Nebbiolo. An Etna Rosso can rival the best Burgundies and Barolos.

Initially Frank rented vineyards but, beginning in 2001, he started purchasing several small vineyard plots. One of these is own-rooted 140-year-old vines sitting at about 3000 feet elevation pre-dating the Phylloxera epidemic that wiped out most of Europe’s vineyards.

Frank believes you can never understand nature’s full complexity but must keep trying, that it’s all about accepting nature “as she is and will be” and following “her indications as to what to do, instead of deciding and imposing ourselves.” But he isn’t a Luddite either. Frank utilizes technology in ways that don’t impact the wine. Eschewing the use of chemical additions or treatments, he practices polyculture on his 15-hectare estate, growing, among other things, buckwheat and fruits (apples, prunes, apricots, quinces), as well as mountain pumpkins. He also collects honey from his vineyard beehives, and makes several distinctive, awesome olive oils from his olive trees. And, in order to get the ripest fruit, he meticulously harvests the grapes by hand in several passes, discarding any unripe or damaged grapes, from mid-October to early November.

In the cellar, the winemaking is natural, without additions of yeasts, sulfites or chemicals. The wines are fermented with their skins in small neutral tubs to ensure stable temperatures. After fermentation, the wines are pressed and stored in neutral vessels, big tanks for the early-bottled wines and epoxy-lined anforas buried in volcanic rock for the more tannic wines.