Frank Cornelissen MunJebel Rosso MC 2019
“The 2019 Munjebel Rosso MC (Monte Colla) is deep and inward in character, but also remarkably pretty. This dark beauty wafts up with dried cherries and crushed rocks complemented by nuances of rosemary and balsam. It greets the palate with the silkiest of textures and ripe wild berry fruits, yet with a core of nervous acidity that builds an energetic tension. This is like the proverbial iron fist in the velvet glove, tapering off long with talcum-like tannins, as sweet tobacco and lavender tones fade over a contrasting savory bitter twang of balsamic spice. It’s an utter beauty, and it’s already showing so well. The Rosso MC is from the steeply-terraced Monte Colla vineyard, with its seventy-five-year-old Nerello Mascalese vines planted in sandy clay soils. Drinking window: 2023-2028. 94 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)