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    Il Belga Pazzo: Frank Cornelissen, The Crazy Belgian | Watson's Wine

    Il Belga Pazzo: Frank Cornelissen, The Crazy Belgian

    Vincent Yuen
    By guest blogger Vincent Yuen 隨意走,尋找甜蜜生活!
    Instagram @vincent.ms.yuen

    Vincent Yuen is an Italian wine book author and a freelance editor. He holds a WSET Diploma, Italian Wine Ambassador, Certified Italian Wine Educator, Italian Wine Scholar, Sud de France Master-Level Certificate and SSI International Kikisake-shi qualifications. With extensive experience in wine education, he believes both rationality and sensibility are essential to tasting. In addition to wine tasting, he is also the official olive oil taster of O.N.A.O.O (Organizzazione Nazionale Assaggiatori Olio di Oliva), a Olive Oil Sommelier, and a member of Chaine des Rotisseurs.

    Wines from Mount Etna in the northeast of Sicily, Italy, have been sought after by the market in recent years, all because three wine merchants came to this barren land to make wines 20 years ago. Frank Cornelissen, a former wine merchant from Belgium, is one of them.

    Frank Cornelissen

    Frank Cornelissen grew up under the influence of his father who is an avid wine lover. At the age of 14, he bought a mixed case of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti and has been mesmerized by wine ever since.

    After graduating from university, he worked in different industries and experienced a lot of failures and setbacks. At last, he started to engage in wine business and became a successful wine merchant.

    One day, a friend bought him a wine from Etna and he immediately fell for it. He drove to Etna and was fascinated by the environment, ungrafted old vines in particular, he then rented a vineyard and started making wine. In 2001, he officially bought it and established his own winery.

    Without experience on winemaking, Frank solely relies on his instinct, and asks other wineries for help when needed.

    Former wine merchant Frank Cornelissen becomes the owner of the winery, promoting Etna’s wines to the world.
    Source : Frank Cornelissen Instagram

    Philosophy of Frank Cornelissen

    His former experience in the fine wines industry has offered him a unique philosophy: man will never be able to understand nature’s full complexity and interactions, and should therefore observe, learn and follow the indications of nature. Frank uses minimal interventions in farming and winemaking, and thinks that regardless which methodologies one adopts, from chemical to organic or biodynamic, it’s important to let the land and vines to express themselves.

    Frank also believes winemaking takes 50% rationality and 50% sensibility.

    In his early days of winemaking, his wines are fermented and aged on lees in clay amphorae without fining, filtering, ageing and adding Sulphur Dioxide before bottling. The resulted wines are raw and unique. The locals called him Il Belga Pazzo (the crazy Belgian) and he is widely considered as one of the most extreme natural wine producers. Lately, his wines are more refined by aging in epoxy-treated terracotta vessels, sometimes with filtering and a minimal amount of Sulphur Dioxide. Still, his wines remain characterful.

    Frank Cornelissen now uses epoxy-treated terracotta vessels during ageing.
    Source : Frank Cornelissen Instagram

    Frank Cornelissen Munjebel Bianco 2019

    “Munjebel” is dialectal toponym for Mt. Etna, meaning beautiful mountain.

    It is the first white wine of the winery, and is started out as an orange wine, fermented with the skins for an extended period but now shortened to approximately 3 days.

    The wine is blended with 50% Carricante and 50% Grecanico Dorato (aka Garganega). The former is a native white grape variety from Etna and is known for its high acidity, complimented by aromas of lemon, star anise, green apple, orange blossom, chamomile and apricot.

    Golden in color, with aromas of butter, apricot, goldenrod, lemon, tangerine and apple. On palate, it has a fresh acidity and an oily mouthfeel supported by orange, orange peel, honey, Mediterranean spices and mineral notes. The finish has the spiciness of white pepper. Balanced and structured.

    Decant for 1 hour before drinking and burgundy glass is suggested.

    Frank Cornelissen Munjebel Rosso FM 2018

    Speaking of Etna’s reds, Nerello Mascalese is an iconic, dark skinned red grape variety in Etna.

    Light in color, with flavours of sour cherry, tobacco, vanilla, minerality, and heavy tannins, Nerello Mascalese is a powerful red grape that reflects the Etna terroir.

    Etna DOC Consortium divided Etna into 142 contrade (i.e. Italian for single vineyard) with distinctive terroirs. The flavours of grapes are therefore different. Wineries often produce single-vineyard wines to reflect the best of their terroir.

    Etna DOC Consortium divided Etna into 142 contrade.

    Being the largest contrada in the north, Nerello Mascalese from Feudo di Mezzo is widely available in the market (don’t miss out Graci’s red made from Feudo di Mezzo too!). With vineyards facing the north, the wine style is elegant and meant to be consumed young.

    The wine name “FM” is the initials for Feudo di Mezzo and the vineyard located at the bottom part of it, lying at 580 meters above sea level. The resulting wine has higher tannin content yet more elegant.

    Made with 100% Nerello Mascalese, the wine is fermented with yeasts and skin contact for about 50 days, then aged in eutral epoxy tanks for 18 months. Approximately 2,500 bottles are produced annually.

    Pale ruby in color, with aromas of violets, cherries, red currants, cranberries, and a hint of orange, Mediterranean spices, and minerals. On palate, it has bright acidity, and fine and chewy tannins. Flavours of spice and ash gradually evolve, followed by bleeding orange, stone and balsamic that linger.

    Frank Cornelissen Munjebel Rosso CS 2018

    The vineyard situated in Zottorinoto contrada, east to Feudo di Mezzo contrada, and is facing north and at similar latitude.

    The name “CS” refers to Chiusa Spagnolo within Zottorinoto contrada. The terraced landscape has resulted in a refined wine with ripe tannins.

    Pale ruby with a hint of bright red. Subtle aromas of dark cherry and plum. Flavours of violet, rose, cinnamon and candy unfold, then gradually evolve to graphite, ash, pomegranate, orange peels and stones. Vibrant acidity, full-bodied, creamy in the mouth. The firm tannins are fine and profound.

    It is more structural and complex compared to FM.

    Frank Cornelissen has been producing cult wine with personality. We must keep an open mind in order to appreciate the beauty of nature.