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 . . . 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 Cornelissen
Each year Frank takes what nature has to offer and presents it to us in as unadulterated a state as possible. His wines are the true expression of the complexity of the variables at play in each vintage. These are wines the way nature intended them to be.The estate was established in 2001, when Etna as a wine region was relatively undiscovered. The vineyards are located on the Northern valley of the active volcano, which today is considered Etna’s top area for single-vineyard (contrada) red wines.
The estate is 24 hectares, of which 13ha are old vines in the classic free standing alberello training system (Gobelet or bush-vine), 9ha of old vines transformed into modern rows with various width, approximately 2ha of olive growth and the remainder are fruit trees, vegetables and bush. Although Etna has a tradition of high density planting, Frank and his team search to reduce monoculture and have interplanted various local fruit varieties and keep bees to regain a complex ecosystem.
Buckwheat is used for rebalancing soils low on organic material without recourse to industrial compost – especially important when preparing land for a new vineyard plantation – and soil-tilling is avoided as much as possible. Grape varieties are native/traditional and include Nerello Mascalese and Grecanico Dorato, with some pre-phylloxera vines dating back to 1910.
Yields are low, around 300 – 600g per vine for the top vineyards and harvest is done in multiple passages and relatively late in order to achieve phenolic ripeness.
The winemaking is done with care with the fruit fermented with the skins in small neutral tubs to avoid high temperatures and lasts at least until alcoholic fermentation is finished, enabling the fermentation to finish perfectly. Then the grapes are gently pressed and stored in neutral vessels.
Frank and his team now use a small amount of sulphur to preserve the precision and quality of the wines and for this we applaud him. As we have always said, first the wine must taste good, then we will listen to how it was made. If it does not taste good – then how it was made is really not of much importance.
If you have not tasted Frank’s wines before – we suggest that you start with the Munjebel Rosso – his quintessential wine from Mt Etna made from Nerello Mascalaese. It is magic in every bottle.