Frank Cornelissen: Sicilian master of Nerello Mascalese 🌋

Written by Michelle Negron on

“Man will never be able to understand nature’s full complexity and interactions.”

On the Northern valley of the active Etna Volcano, Frank Cornelissen continues to pursue his desire to make natural wines with a sense of place. Since 2001, his relentless drive for natural perfection has propelled his terroir and his main grape, Nerello Mascalese, to global recognition. Frank believes that by observing nature and “using as little as possible” he can make the most authentic natural wines possible.

He says making wine is defined by two aspects:

  1. the farming aspect which is to cultivate grapes, and
  2. the cultural aspect, which is to transform these grapes through technical winemaking into the cultural product that we call wine

His single vineyard wines represent the incredible diversity of vineyard sites in the Northern valley of Etna. These crus are beautiful and individual expressions of exceptional vineyards which are vinified and bottled separately. These wines are produced and bottled only in very good to exceptional vintages.

frank cornelissen Nerello Mascalese

Each of these wines ferment starting with a “pied-de-cuve” using only indigenous yeasts and skin contact for about 60 days. Aging is in neutral epoxy tanks from 2500L to 7000L. Sulphur values can vary from 5 to 30 mg/L, added or not, depending on the quality of grapes and stability of the wine.

Best of Frank Cornelisson’s natural wines

Munjebel Rosso Cru CS - Chiusa Spagnolo

This 100% Nerello Mascalese from Frank Cornelissen comes from the ungrafted vineyard in Contrada Zottorinoto, in the Chiusa Spagnola section, situated lower in the valley floor, a bit hidden in an amphitheater, surrounded by lava. A unique vineyard planted around 1925 at a lower altitude (620m. asl) producing a profound, tannic wine, slightly more Nebbiolo-ish compared to their other crus and lighter in color. Annual production: approx. 2.500 bottles. First vintage: 2012.

Munjebel Rosso Cru VA - Vigne Alte

This pure Nerello Mascalese is a blend of Frank Cornelissen's three highest vineyards, Tartaraci (1000m asl.), Monte Dolce (870m asl.), and Pettinociarelle (890m asl.). The average age of vines is 90+ years. It beautifully expresses the value and precision of old vines, ungrafted Nerello Mascalese on the high terraces of the Etna Northern valley. The most Burgundian of his crus. Annual production: 2.000 bottles. First vintage: 2010.

Munjebel Rosso Cru CR - Campo Re

100% Nerello Mascalese from the partly ungrafted vineyard Campo Re, situated at the far Western side of the valley floor, at the entrance of Randazzo. The average age of vines is 70+ years. The vineyard altitude is 735m asl. and is characterized by deep soils which, in humid vintages creates major difficulties for Frank Cornelissen to obtain ripe fruit. The wines are profound and tannic, and more Nebbiolo-ish compared to his other crus. Annual production: approx. 2.500 bottles. First vintage: 2015.

Munjebel Rosso MC – Monte Colla

Pure Nerello Mascalese from the Contrada Monte Colla. An extremely steep and terraced vineyard, beautifully exposed to sun and wind and right in front of Mount Etna. The sandy clay soils and the old-vine Nerello Mascalese, planted in 1946, produces a rich and powerful wine that also maintains elegance. Frank Cornelissen calls this wine his “Hermitage” of Etna. Annual production: approx. 2.000 bottles. First vintage: 2011.

Munjebel Rosso Cru PA – Feudo di Mezzo - Porcaria

100% Nerello Mascalese produced from Frank Cornelissen's old vine (60+ years) alberello cru Porcaria, situated at 640m asl. in the Contrada Feudo di Mezzo. A challenging location to achieve perfect ripeness. It has power as well as refined elegance in balanced vintages when everything falls into place. A complete wine. Annual production: approx. 2.000 bottles. First vintage: 2014.

Munjebel Rosso Cru FM – Feudo di Mezzo – Sottana

100% Nerello Mascalese. Feudo di Mezzo is very vast, so Frank Cornelissen prefers to separate the lower part (sottana) from the upper part (soprana or Porcaria). Although lower in the valley floor, the wines are of an unusual elegance which characterizes this area. Relatively deep soils which, in humid vintages can create some problems although the well-ventilated site helps grapes ripen. Average age of vines is 40+ years. Burgundian elegance and roundness, even in hot vintages, makes this a special wine with finesse and personality. Annual production: approx. 2.500 bottles. First vintage: 2014.

Magma Rosso – Grand Vin Barbabechi

Frank Cornelissen's “Grand Vin” from his Barbabecchi vineyard at 910m. asl. Planted around 1910 and North / North East exposed, capturing the first and cool morning sun rays. This pure Nerello Mascalese from ungrafted old vines produces a profound wine, rich with liquorice and oriental spices, elegant, with character and Frank’s unique sense of place. Only produced in great vintages when grapes can achieve full phenolic ripeness. Annual production: approx. 1.500 bottles. First vintage: 2001.


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