Frank Cornelissen Susucaru Rosso 2017
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 varieties including Nerello Mascalese, Malvasia and Inzolia. 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.
Frank calls the Susucaru Rosso his “entry-level” wine. It’s is a field-blend of mostly Nerello Mascalese (85%) with other local varietals from all our vineyards: Nerello Capuccio, Alicante Boushet, Minella and Uva Francesa. The Susucaru Rosso 2017 expresses Etna as It’s produced in a more traditional way of blending different Contrada’s as well as different varietals to obtain a fragrant, elegant and fluid wine with structure and personality.
Cornelissen’s Susucaru Rosso is seriously hard to get your hands on but we don’t do any of that Strictly 1 bottle per order stuff, so you can order as much as we have!
By The Bottle