Sicily

Frank Cornelissen

Frank Cornelissen

Frank began his career in the wine trade as a wine salesman in his native Belgium. It was during this time that he had his first revelatory taste of a Nerello Mascalese from Etna. Within a little more than a year, without any training in winemaking, he began his odyssey in Sicily trying to make his own “liquified rocks.” Frank’s vineyards are high up on the volcanic slopes of Sicily’s Mount Etna. This is one of the world’s great terroirs and the place where the indigenous Nerello Mascalese shines. An Etna Rosso can rival the best Burgundies and Barolos. As Frank says, Nerello possesses the fruit of Pinot Noir and the dry tannins of Nebbiolo.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 that sit at about 3000 feet elevation and pre-date the Phylloxera epidemic that wiped out most of Europe’s vineyards.

A kind of Zen Master, he believes we can never understand nature’s full complexity but we have to keep listening to it. It’s about accepting nature “as she is and will be” and following “her indications as to what to do, instead of deciding and imposing ourselves.” He isn’t a Luddite either. Frank utilizes technology only in ways that don’t impact the wine.Eschewing the use of any chemical additions or treatments, he practices polyculture on his 15-hectare estate. He grows, among other things, buckwheat and fruits (apples, prunes, apricots, quinces), as well as mountain pumpkin. He also collects honey from his vineyard beehives and makes several distinctive awesome olive oils from his olive trees.In order to get the ripest fruit, the grapes are harvested by hand in several passes, from mid-October to early November. They undergo meticulous selection and any unripe or damaged ones are discarded.

In the cellar, the winemaking is completely 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.