Frank Cornelissen is one of the icon”s of natural wine-making.  He makes “beyond” natural wines from the grapes grown in his vineyards on the top of the active volcano Mt. Etna in Sicily.

We recently conducted an interview with Frank and asked him about Mt. Etna, the indigenous grapes that he works with, and why he chose the naturalist approach.

Sedimentary:  Why did you choose Mt. Etna as the location for your winery?

Frank Cornelissen: “After years of traveling all over the world in search of territorially expressive wines, I tasted a bottle of Etna which was served blind and it struck me. So, I decided to visit Etna and after spending a day driving around the mountain, I was instantly attracted when entering the northern valley. The natural beauty of it’s environment reminded me of Georgia (Caucasus): the climate, the old vines, the stone walls. . . Everything fell into place here: altitude, real winters with snow,  intensity of the light, dry climate, the century old culture of vine growing. . .  I was lucky to find a small plot at the end of 2000 and I started working it for 2001 – which was my first vintage.”

Sedimentary: What is unique about Nerello Mascalese?

Frank Cornelissen: “I don’t care whether varietals are local as long as they have come from somewhere where viticulture had it’s origin – presumably Georgia or Armenia. What I need to produce a great territorial wine is a varietal with a long vegetative cycle because this is necessary to transport the mineral identity of the soil into the fruit when mature. The longer the cycle, the better. Nerello Mascalese has this quality.  We pick it between mid-October to mid-November.”

Sedimentary:  Why do you choose a naturalist approach to wine-making?

Frank Cornelissen: “Natural wines have not been defined yet and so I am not a fan of the use of words or concepts that have no definition. My vision is that producing in a “naturalistic” way, with the use of zero products, if possible, and zero additives in the wine, evidently and logically will express in the wine the most of it”s territorial identity.”

“Therefore, I avoid using any kind of chemistry, technique or technology which might cover up parts of the territorial expression. I strongly believe that, being an artisan, the naturalist way is the road, but not it”s end. My goal is to make the most expressive territorial products, trying to always to interpret better every year and producing always more profound products –  with one very important exception which is to be respected – always bearing in mind the importance of passing on to our next generation a healthy land and environment that is free of any drug addiction (read: “necessary treatments”).”

Thanks to Frank Cornelissen for his time.  For Frank”s Blog visit here.

Also, we import Frank”s wines.  For our latest offering of Cornelissen wines go here.

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