Frank Cornelissen MunJebel Rosso VA 2017

£59.99

“The 2017 Mascalese Munjebel VA wafts up with a layered yet lifted display, as white smoke, cardamom and peppery herbs give way to crushed cherries and hints of clove. It’s silky and pliant in feel, motivated by juicy acidity that enlivens its tart and spicy woodland berry fruit. A subtle coating of sweet tannins and hints of hard red candies linger, contrasted by salty minerals, making for a nicely balanced and lightly structured finale. This is such a pretty expression of the vintage, and it’s already drinking very well. Drinking window: 2021-2026. 92 points

Frank Cornelissen arrived on Mount Etna in 2001 at the head of a small handful of producers who would go on to make this region famous, but fame was never his intention. The goal throughout the twenty-four hectares of Cornelissen vineyards and in the winery was to create an entirely holistic approach of capturing a snapshot of the natural ecosystem and biodiversity of Mount Etna within each bottle. This approach prohibits the use of any chemical fertilizer or pesticide in the vineyards. Only in the most difficult vintages will copper sulphate and sulfur be used, and only to prevent a complete loss of fruit. Yields are drastically reduced and harvests are completed late throughout all Munjebel, Frank Cornelissen’s single contrade or Crus, which are located in the northern valley of Mount Etna. The vineyards, many of which contain extremely old alberello or bush-trained vines, are between 600 to 1,000 meters in elevation, planted in a diverse mix of soils formed through thousands of years of volcanic activity on the Etna. In the winery, the focus is to add nothing, yet take nothing away. Fermentations start spontaneously and are completed in neutral tubs which naturally keep temperatures low. For the more structured wines, they are refined in epoxy-coated terracotta, buried up to their necks in volcanic soil. Most fans of wines from Etna have all heard this story, but if they never experienced the results, then it’s impossible to truly understand what Frank Cornelissen has accomplished. Throughout the area, there are many producers that are now turning out world-class wines, but finding one that obtains such depth of texture, the unique character of fruit aromas and flavors, and with the potential to mature evenly in a cellar, without the use of any winemaking wizardry, is not easy to do. Granted, these wines are extremely vintage-dependent, which they should be. At the top the wines can also be cost prohibitive, yet the entry-level Susucaru is a wonderful introduction to the house style. Also, readers should note that if mishandled or not stored correctly, these wines are likely to be adversely affected much quicker than other wines – but that is the price for experiencing the purity of Mount Etna; because in the end, that’s what Frank Cornelissen is bottling.”

Eric Guido, Vinous (06/21)

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