Frank Cornelissen is a winemaker whose bottles have been championed for two decades in the natural wine scene, but Frank’s quest isn't about making a certain style. He farms organically, with as little intervention as possible. In the winery, his style constantly evolves, on a mission to produce fine Etna wine that is as pure as can be.
“Terroir is the identity of the vineyard and its grapes. It’s a combination of many elements: variety, geology and microclimate. Imagine if you plant eucalyptus around your vineyard: you’d have a different taste of wine. That means terroir can’t just be reduced to geology or to the environment or variety. It’s a combination of all those aspects. Some of the greatest terroirs and wines in the world always stand out, no matter if you vinify differently. That’s why there are great terroirs.”
People: Frank Cornelissen
Place: Mount Etna, Sicily
Varieties: Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Capuccio, Alicante Bouschet, Minella, Uva Francesca, Malvasia, Moscadella and Insolia
Farming: Organic with elements of biodynamics
Wines: Click here
Did You Know? Frank was once famous for refusing to use sulfites or filter his wines, but now his rules have relaxed a little and any dogma has taken a back seat. Now, he will filter the wines before bottling (but never fine them - for Frank this is a no-go), and he will add a tiny amount of sulphur (up to 30mg) if he feels the wine needs it, else he will bottle without.
Since day one, Frank has farmed organically, according to the rhythms of nature and the cosmos. Unless absolutely necessary, he doesn’t even use sulphur or copper. The vines are left in a very natural state; he doesn't cut the shoots, letting the apex grow, which he believes is very important for the vine's balanced photosynthetic development. To combat the monocultural state of a vineyard, they are interplanted with fruit trees.
While Frank does follow the lunar cycle, he doesn’t believe in applying biodynamic preparations to the vines, feeling that the vineyards should not rely on human beings. He explains,
“You can’t pretend like you want to live in a hospital your whole life, so it doesn’t make sense to continually correct the farming and Mother Nature. Every human body and every piece of land finds its own balance, and that’s why you should follow that land, not “farm” it, or “dictate” it. If you dictate the rhythm and photosynthesis, then man puts him or herself in the place of God, and I don’t follow or accept that. I prefer to follow what nature dictates, and I react to that."
He reflects on his farming experience as a personal journey, and emphasises that perhaps the most important element that he has improved is the practicality. He says,