What seems like a long wait for such a rare wine, Frank Cornelissen MunJebel Bianco 2017 is finally here in the UK! Frank began collecting wines with his father, and the first wines he bought were a mixed case of 1972 Domaine de la Romanée Conti. Despite the cost, he was hooked. Since then ‘wine has never left me’, he says. Later, he became a wine agent, and talking regularly with winemakers he became interested in the rather philosophical question of what wine actually is. Over 20 years of tasting, he found that he liked wines that were an expression of culture, that is more evolved, and which express the soil more than the fruit. He decided that he wanted wines with a more natural approach and that he’d like to make wines without any treatments in the vineyard, winemaking or bottling. Franks wanted to make wines with full complexity and minimal interactions with mother nature by observing and learning the ways in which you should grow vines amongst the volcanic rock.
The farm and vineyards are located in Sicily, in the Northern Valley of the active volcano Mount Etna. Although Etna has a tradition in the high-density plantation of vines, they search to reduce monoculture and have interplanted various local fruit varieties and keep bees to regain a complex ecosystem, which follows the movements of mother earth. The vineyards are old ungrafted sapling vines that are more than 60 years old, from the vineyards called Chiusa Spagnolo, Monte Colla, Porcaria, Crasa, Piano Daini in Mount Etna’s north slope. Buckwheat is used for rebalancing soils low on organic material without recourse to industrial compost, especially important when preparing the land for a new vineyard plantation. As bread is a daily need and the origin of the most nutritious cereals are in Sicily, Cornelissen was drawn to produce this obvious and classic farming product, abandoned many years ago in the Etna region, as buckwheat helps regenerate the soil. Their ultimate goal is to evolve towards a self-sustainable agricultural reality based on the trilogy of Mediterranean farming (cereals, olive oil and wine) without exploiting Mother Earth, to produce whilst also returning, evolving towards an equilibrium of the land, which will take a lot of time before achieving. They avoid soil-tilling as much as possible, although this depends on the vintage and the quantity of water over the winter (recovering of the vines after the production cycle). Munjebel Rosso is a full-bodied and traditional expression of Nerello Mascalese and of old sapling vines from Etna. It is produced in fibreglass tanks, without additives.
The Munjebel Bianco is an Etna juice made from a blend of Grecanico and Carricante grapes that derive from vines of over 40 years rooted on the lava soil of the great volcano. It is a white wine macerated on the skins for 4 days, by a fresh and fine minerality and by olfactory sensations of ripe yellow fruit, ginger and undergrowth. You can cellar it for over 5 years