100% Nerello Mescalese from the 100-year-old Barbabecchi vineyard.
There may be no name that travels throughout the World of Natural Wine and beyond with such familiarity as that of Frank Cornelissen who works on the North side of Eastern Italy’s fearsome mongibello, also known as, Mount Etna (Greek: αἴθω). The Italian translates to ‘Beautiful Mountain’ the Greek to something a bit more biting and searching ‘I burn.’ At the tension of this etymology you could say live the wines of Frank Cornelissen, a winemaker who landed on the slopes of this beautiful, burning, mountain at the turn of the century. If there are any Natural Wine 101 seminars at universities out there, Cornelissen’s rise in the popular consciousness writ large would no doubt be attributed in no small part to Action Bronson’s well-documented mid-2010’s love affair with the susucaru rosato, a field-blend co-ferment of red and white varieties grown throughout Cornelissen’s 24 hectares of vines at various altitudes. In any case, an unfortunate side-effect of such fame is that it obscures the depth of the project’s concept and the quality and steadfast industry – and still, the mystery – of the winemaker behind all the froth and fizzle otherwise.
Eric Asimov’s 2016 profile of Frank (a must-read) quotes Cornelissen as saying: “Liquid Rock. That is my vision.” And it’s more than a tongue-in-cheek reference to the volcanic soils atop which he’s worked with these once-abandoned old-vines of Nerello Mascalese, Maslvasia, Insolia and the like. His vision is not dogmatically “natural” the way one may expect – he will welcome inventive tools afforded by improving technology so long as they help create wines of territory, of specific place and culture, of the Earth. He wants Wines-as-Liquid-“Rock” in the way we refer to the earth as a “rock” hurtling through space, that is, he wants wines in the true way the entirety of the world was once described: “a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.” A quiet enormity: Cornelissen’s are elemental wines given license to scrape the sky.