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Visiting Mt. Etna has been one of the great treats of my vinous life, which I hope to repeat early and often. Another great vinous treat, in a bizarre way, is tasting wine at VinItaly.
Bizarre because being in the fair can be a real trial, but it’s also a privilege to be able to taste so many great wines under one roof (well, many roofs, one giant enclosure), and I like being reminded that the world of Italian wine is gigantic, whirring away while we muddle along in our tiny niche. It was at least a little weird to see Frank Cornelissen at VinItaly, but great to taste his excellent new wines. Jamie Wolff
PS - Fair Warning! One important labeling change at Cornelissen: it seems that a producer of industrial wine had registered "Contadino" as theirs. Thus the Cornelissen red wine formerly called Contadino is now Susucaru Rosso; this in turn means that there is Susucaru Rosso (available today) and Susucaru Rosato- which we will be getting at a later date!
For Frank, Munjebel is a showcase of Etna’s noble grape: Nerello Mascalese. In contrast to the grappa of Contadino, the flavors are bolder, richer, and more unctuous. I found lots of red fruit and smoke tones, and, once again, although left at a hearty 60% alcohol, no burn! Highly recommended as an example of a single producer, single variety, single vintage and all from Etna’s north slope—very unusual in the world of grappa! JR
The wine formerly known as Contadino! This cuvée is a blend of several vineyards, including some fruit from Camp Re and Feudi di Mezza that doesn't go into the single vineyard bottlings. A field blend of mostly Nerello Mascalese (85%) with the rest made up of Nerello Cappuccio, Alicante Bouschet, Minella and Uva Francesa. The 2017 vintage was quite warm and ripe, and the wine shows generous dark, wild berry fruit on top of an intense mineral character and hints of smoke. Lots of character and energy in this wine. Oskar Kostecki
The Munjabel Rosso bottling spends at least a month on the skins leading to a more structured and intense expression of Etna than the Susucaru Rosso. Very mineral on the palate, with dark cherry, dark berry and hints of plum, this is a wine that will open up with time. A long finish resolves in beautiful ashy note that perfectly showcases the unique terroir of Mount Etna. Oskar Kostecki
This is pure Nerello Mascalese from a vineyard of ungrafted vines planted in 1925, in a little amphitheater surrounded by lava. A nose of slightly desiccated berry fruit with exotic dark floral tones, exotic spices and volcanic rock minerality. The wine is beautifully structured, with slightly more present tannins balanced by great acidity and intensity on the palate that lingers on a very long finish. Oskar Kostecki
Campo Re is a vineyard of ungrafted Nerello Mascalese planted in deeper soils on the Western side of Mount Etna. My notes from VinItaly highlight the deeper and more serious nature of this wine with comments such as "woody and herbal", "structured intensity and firmer tannins" and the all-important "!!!". I remember wanting to spend way more time with this than our hectic tasting schedule permitted, and revel in its darker aspects. Oskar Kostecki
This year there are two bottlings from the Feudo di Mezzo vineyard, and this particular one is from the lower portion (sottana) with deeper soils. The wine is slightly more fruit-forward than its higher altitude cousin, showing notes of raspberry, black cherry, and plum. Rounder and maybe a little softer on the palate, this still has the mineral character and intensity that you would expect from any of Frank's wines. Oskar Kostecki
Porcaria is the upper part of Feudo di Mezzo, and is a section of Nerello Mascalese planted in the 1950s in free-standing albarello (an old vine training system). Both the nose and the palate shows more pungent spice notes than the sottana portion, and also a slightly darker fruit expression. Incredible energy on the palate here, and an intensely long finish. Another candidate for taking your time, this is a wine that perfectly showcases the wildness of Etna. "!!!" Oskar Kostecki
Sourced from the highest elevation vineyards in the northern valley of Mount Etna with old vines of ungrafted Nerello Mascalese. Really elegant on both the nose and palate, Frank says this is the most "Burgundian" of his wines, and though we feel that word is sometimes overused, we can't help but agree. Floral and perfume, fruit and ash, this is very balanced and a joy of a wine to drink. Oskar Kostecki
From a high altitude, steep, and terraced vineyard planted in 1946 on sandy clay soils, this is the densest of the Munjabels, showing pungent woody aromas, with more tannins and intensity on the palate. A blockbuster Etna wine. Oskar Kostecki
Vines of 100 year old ungrafted Nerello Mascalese from the Barbabecchi vineyard, planted at an altitute of 900 meters above sea level. This wine isn't made every year, just in the vintages that Frank considers to meet the exceptional quality he demands from this bottling. Having the opportunity to taste this was a vinous highlight of our recent visit to Italy; one of the wines that made me slightly starstruck. Exceptional balance, depth and purity. Oskar Kostecki