Frank Cornelissen MunJebel Rosso CR 2019


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“Woodsy herbs and wet stone take on an air of white smoke and peppery florals as the 2019 Munjebel Rosso CR (Campo Re) unfolds in the glass. This takes its time, slowly opening, as wild strawberries, stems and all, lazily come to the fore. It’s seamlessly silky and pliant upon entry, cool-toned as well, with a mounting saturation of red berries toward the close, adding an almost-chewy sensation. While structured with angular tannins, there’s a burst of inner sweetness that adds balance, as notes of fresh tobacco mix with licorice and hard red candies to create a finish that seems to linger on and on. The CR may be the longest lived of Cornelissen’s 2019 Rossos, but also the one that will take the most time to come around. The Campo Re hails from the western part of the northern slope of Etna at around 735 meters. The wine undergoes indigenous fermentation, followed by thirty days of maceration on the skin and eighteen months of refinement in epoxy tanks. Drinking window: 2024-2032. 93+ points

What can I say; Frank Cornelissen is at the top of his game. I think back over the last fifteen years that I’ve been tasting these wines, and I can honestly say that I have never seen such precision, purity and consistency as I’ve seen tasting the last few vintages. It all seems to have come to an apex with the 2019 crus. The best part is that 2020 is expected to be an even better vintage, and the Munjebel Rosso tasted in this report has heightened my anticipation.

What has Cornelissen changed? Actually quite a bit. In my interview with him, he plainly stated, “My wines used to be anti-wines.” He came to Etna in the early 2000s with the idea that this was one of the few locations on earth where wine could be made without any manipulation. Mistakes were made as he learned along the way, but with time, the style of Frank Cornelissen became renowned. Unfortunately, they also became renowned for being undependable. I remember a time when I would tell people that finding a perfect bottle is very difficult; but when you do, it’s pure magic. It was because of this that many collectors became turned off to the brand, especially when you consider the price tag attached to the single-vineyard wines. Today, Cornelissen admits that his first ten years were very experimental and that he took things too close to the edge. This is still a winery that practices extreme biodynamic principles across their twenty-four hectares and eschews overhandling of the wines in the winery and cellar. However, there have been a number of changes to the process. For one thing, their team has grown, which allows for better precision pick dates and sorting. Aging and refinement is now completed in epoxy-lined fiberglass tanks, while the subterranean terracotta is reserved for small-batch projects. The wines are bottled sooner, but held longer prior to release in an attempt to capture more purity of fruit and “crunch”. Sulfur is now used, but only as necessary, and in very low doses. And then there are the stems, as since 2018 (a very difficult vintage that required drastic experimentation), Cornelissen has started using 10-15% of the stems in the fermentations. Taking all of this into consideration, one might expect the wines to have changed quite a bit, yet I still find Frank Cornelissen magic, just without the fear and guesswork of what to expect from bottle to bottle. They are ripe, sapid, full of life, with balanced structures and transparent to terroir. What’s more, they only get better the longer they are open in the bottle.

As for the 2019 vintage in front of us, while many producers will talk about how happy they were with the year, Cornelissen will explain that the excellent result was one of selection, not nature. The winery dropped around 20% of their normal single-vineyard production in the sorting room to weed out the faulty berries within each bunch. In my opinion, the result is a selection of wines that readers will not want to miss.”

Eric Guido, Vinous (06/22)