Frank Cornelissen Susucaru Rosato 2018
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What seems like a long wait for such a rare wine, the Frank Cornelissen Susucaru Rosato 2018 is finally about to touch down in the UK again! 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.
The name Susucaru comes from a Sicilian expression meaning “they stole it” which is what Frank’s crew shouted when they realized most of the grapes from their first vintage had vanished. The farm and vineyards are located in Sicily, in the Northern Valley of the active volcano 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. The new vineyards are planted without grafts, using a selection of their original, ungrafted vines. 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. 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). Franks goal is to avoid all treatments whatsoever in the vineyard, orchard and surroundings, in which they succeeded even in difficult vintages such as 2004 and 2005. Unfortunately, there will always be the vintages where treatments with copper sulphate and sulphur are necessary to avoid vines from dying like 2013 and 2015.
Susucaru is made from a range of native Sicilian grape Malvasia, Moscadella, Cattaratto, Nerello Mascalese. With no added sulphites or yeasts, the wine is definitely geeky stuff, and probably closest to a pale Jura red if you’re looking for a comparison. The wine is unfiltered and contains only natural preservatives such as polyphenols from skin contact and a touch of carbon dioxide, a byproduct of fermentation. Some have described his wines as a “bit too much” and “unapologetically funky”. Over the years Cornelissen has assembled about 22 hectares of old vines near Mount Etna. The grapes for Susucaru are fermented with about 10 days of skin contact, so it’s not made with standard rose methods, and the result is closer to very light red wine than to chic pale Provençal rose. In the last couple of years Cornelissen has been using what he describes as a very light filtration; there is still no sulfur used in the vines or in the cellar, but he feels the filtration has really helped to stabilize the wines and eliminate the bottle variation that sometimes occurred in the earlier years of his work.
The Frank Cornelissen Susucaru Rosato is produced with the same philosophy and vinification techniques as all their other wines: skin contact for texture and territorial identity, malolactic fermentation fully finished for density, fluidity and stability. Susucaru Rosato is a refreshing summer wine from a blend of Malvasia, Moscadella, Insolia and Nerello Mascalese, this is a “rosé” which can also be regarded as a light red, like a “Jura” wine, pairing well with a wide variety of dishes.
Cornelissen’s Susucaru Rosato is seriously hard to get your hands – it’s on allocation only in the UK, and we have a very small amount of bottles left.