October 6, 2023|In News, Wondermakers, Wines

You Loved 'em, We Listened - MORE Newly Arrived Wines from Legendary Frank Cornelissen

“What can I say, Frank Cornelissen is at the top of his game, [] and I can honestly say that I have never seen such precision, purity, and consistency as I’ve seen tasting the last few vintages. It all seems to have come to an apex with the 2019 crus.”

Eric Guido, for Vinous

Three years ago we excitedly blogged about the arrival of Frank Cornelissen, the demi-god of natural wines, to our D&N Portfolio, and in May, we got a very hot allocation of Frank’s 2019 vintage, including some of his PREMIUM single-vineyard MunJebel Rossos which you can read alllll about here

NOW we have two fresh and highly anticipated drops hitting our cellar shelves… 2021 MunJebel Rosso & 2022 Susucaru Rosato! 

So Are The 2019s Old News?


While a number of Frank Cornelissen’s wines are accessible early – the ’22 Rosato being a prime example – a lot of Frank’s wines are designed to cellar for a few years, and in fact the 2019 Rossos are just coming into their prime drinking window now, and depending on the bottling, will likely remain so for another 5-10 years. (Which is amazing considering Frank considers this not a ‘cellar’ year!)

In a nutshell, the 2019s are from an ‘apex’ vintage for Frank, with highly rated bottlings across the entire range. (Not that Frank subscribes to the whole media-ratings vibe, he just has to put up with everyone loving him anyway.)

Don’t just take our word for it (but, really, do… they’re so delicious,) Dhall & Nash is currently filling seats at a premium masterclass for trade and an exclusive wine-matched dinner to showcase the immense calibre of the 2019 cuvées Frank has produced…

TL;DR: No, the 2019s are perfect RIGHT NOW!

“Quality- focused with natural being the inspiration, not the destination”

Jancis Robinson MW on Frank Cornelissen.

Frank's Turning Point

When the Belgian ex-Fine wine dealer came to Etna in 2001, his vision was that this is one of the few locations on Earth where wine could be made without any manipulation. Mistakes were made as he learned along the way, but with time, the style of Frank Cornelissen became renowned.

Still today, this is a winery that practices non-interventionist principles across their twenty-four hectares and eschews overhandling of the wines in the winery and cellar. However, there have been a number of changes to the process.

“My wines used to be anti-wines”

admits Cornelissen

The 2019 vintage is the first that Cornelissen has released under the new regime. SO² is a standard preservative that has been used in winemaking for centuries to protect grapes, must, and wine in its various stages against harmful yeasts and bacteria, as well as the negative impacts of oxygen. The decisions about whether to use SO², how much to use, and when, are open to infinite debate.

In a hot climate, however, where pH levels are high, the grapes, must, and wine have less natural in-built protection than lower-pH wines from cooler climates. The amount of SO² also needs to be higher than in a cooler climate for it to be effective. Cornelissen is adding 10mg/L at the first racking, with total SO² ending up at around 30mg/L, keeping free SO² at a minimum, under 5mg/L. He pointed out that his beloved Nerello Mascalese “likes to eat SO²” so free SO² levels are always exceptionally low.

“You have to be intellectually honest,” Cornelissen explains. “I am searching for quality and precision, so I either have to play with the pH or add SO². People think Etna wines are high acid, but it’s the minerals and the other components that give it that tension.”

Justifying his evolution, Cornelissen says;

“natural wine was a counter-reaction to an excess of enology: too much wood, too much extraction, too many chemicals. Natural wine will never be a category. To make it a category is to put it in a prison, which is the opposite of individualism. It’s uncategorizable, which is its greatest asset.”

Cornelissen considers his SO²-free winemaking experience was an extreme that now enables him to make decisions he would never have had the knowledge to make otherwise.

“If you haven’t gone over the edge, how do you know where the edge is? Now, after 20 years, I know where the edge is.”

Tl;DR: Frank pushed the boundaries a little more each year until he reached ‘the edge’, and in 2019 started pulling back some of his more ‘extreme’ winemaking approaches to come back to a place where it was about the wines, not necessarily the methodology.

Vintage Report

The 2019 Vintage: “After a disastrous 2018, we were ready for everything…but nature was gentle and treated us with impeccable fruit after a relatively balanced growing season. What a relief!

But looks deceive: although the picking was less stressful, we had trouble with uneven maturation within the clusters. The sorting table was very useful during this harvest for picking out the unevenly ripened clusters and increasing the quality at this stage.

The red wines have good tension and overall balance. Although this is not a cellar vintage, the phenolics are good, structure is present and these wines are a welcome relief after a terribly complicated 2018!

My preferred wine of this vintage: Munjebel Rosso “MC” for the smooth tannins, balance and elegance

So if 2019 is so good, why buy these new ones?

Just because the 2019s are drinking superbly doesn’t mean you don’t want to get the jump on the 2021 and 2022 vintages!

Of the 2021 Vintage, the Magma and the MunJebel Rosso were Frank’s personal favourites, “for their overall balance.”

Frank sums up both the 2021 and 2022 vintages as ‘Very Good’ on his special scale. (Medium, Medium+, Good, Good+, Very Good, Very Good+, Great)

[Cornelissen is] “the most driven, ardent, zealous, perfection-oriented winemaker in the world”

Tom Hyland, The World of Fine Wine

The 2021 Vintage: “We lacked a real winter with no snow in the lower vineyards. The pruning of the vines and winter work was finished in time due to the many days of nice weather. In March, we had some frost damage (although very little.)

A very dry growing season overall put the young vines to a real stress test as well as our team to keep the new plantations alive with water. A really tough job on the terraces… We deliberately planted a new vineyard extremely late, in May, in order to get even a little rain.

Green harvest was done more severe for the vines to breath better and suffer less with the drought. The first grapes for the rosato arrived in the cellar on August 17th which was the earliest so far and we finished on October 16th picking the grapes for Magma, another record for early picking.

Yields were very low, especially in the beginning of the harvest. Finally at the beginning of October we had the rain to balance out the sugar/acidity and a week after, the fruit was starting to prepare for ripeness. Although at the start of the harvest, our calculations were going towards a 50% less production, we managed to balance the loss of yield and grapes out to around 25% due to the canopy management and sitting out the picking to get the necessary rain.

Although the reds have a relatively high Ph and lower than average acidity, the wines have grip, texture and personality. In the end, even in an extreme vintage like this, incredibly so, the wines are finding their balance.

The 2022 Vintage: “We had a good winter with regular snow in the higher vineyards. The pruning of the vines and the winter works were finished in time as we invested in more people.

In March it was still quite cold while we were planting a new vineyard site in Contrada Scimonetta. April and May we had more humidity compared to the very dry 2021. The dry growing season started around June which put stress on the young vines which needed water in order to survive the summer, exactly like in 2021.

Strenuous summer work which has become a classic. On August 8th we had some rain which gave the vines energy again. Unfortunately we also caught hail in the middle which damaged some of the grapes.

End of August we had to pick the first grapes for the rosato as we had another hail blast which devastated a lot of the Muscat for the rosato. Magma was picked on October 11th.; again one week earlier compared to a record early in 2021… Yields were average to low.”

Our DN allocation of the 2021 MunJebel Rosso first arrived in late May, and since, we have sold over a quarter of the stock, as well as a good number of the single-vineyard premium cuvées. This lit a fire under us, and urged us to get more on a boat stat!

The 2022 Susucaru Rosato – we had to pry out of the hands of the logistics team who are completely in love with it! We won in the end and urge you not to sit on your laurels here, as the previous vintage was very popular and ran out of stock before we could even land the 2022!

TL;DR: the 2019 Rossos are good and are drinking perfectly due to having 4 years under their belt, but the 2021 is approachable even earlier and is drinking well already (and will also age well.) The Susucaru Rosato is also slamming as its made to be quaffable from the get-go. You can’t go wrong here.

Frank Cornelissen Winery

“The greatest wines are the wines with personality. They have flaws that give them character. Great wines always have a quirk”

Frank Cornelissen

Frank Cornelissen - Newly Landed!

Explosive Wines of Energetic Purity & Precision

Frank Cornelissen - Munjebel Rosso

Frank Cornelissen MunJebel® Rosso 2021

Frank’s Fave!

The MunJebel is a blend of fruit from Frank Cornelissen’s vineyards across the northern valley of Etna. It aims to please, and it will excel at doing so through short-term cellaring.

94 points “Expressive and decidedly gentle and harmonious in the main profile, it shows notes of black plums, marjoram, lavender, hibiscus, black olives, strawberries, geraniums and white pepper. Medium body, creamy tannins of splendid elegant shape, perfectly polymerized and a finish of commendable beauty. Drink now.”

Wine Critic.com

“Rich, powerful and driven by a core of minerality, it’s very hard to quantify what the experience of drinking Etna Rosso for the first time is. There is truly nothing like it in new-world wine, the tastes and aromas are so entwined with the soils and grapes indigenous to Etna, and so specific to the place.

Wild spices, complex fruit notes, the depth and singularity of this wine, makes the first experience, an epiphanic moment in a wine lover’s life.”

Different Drop

Frank Cornelissen Susucaru® Rosato 2022

Prior vintages sold out!

Frank’s famous Malvasia, Moscadella, Insolia, and Nerello Mascalese Rosato blend – made with skin contact for texture and territorial identity, malolactic fermentation fully finished for density, fluidity and stability.

A bright salmon pink. Intense perfumes of young fruits introduce sapidity and minerality. Drinking Window: 2023 – 2030
Frank Cornelissen Winery

I was privileged to taste the wine – Susucaru… bottom line is I taste this natural stuff and my eyes just lit up, some lightbulb went off and I feel like this is where the journey of life has taken me, and where I need to continue to explore.”

Action Bronson for Vice’s Munchies Series

Frank Cornelissen - The Lauded '19s

Frank Cornelissen - Magma Rosso

Frank Cornelissen Magma Rosso 2019

The Nerello Mascalese fruit for Magma hails from the Barbabecchi cru in the North valley between 870-910 metres, with its ungrafted vines that are over 100 years old. After a sixty-day maceration, the wine is vinified completely in neutral epoxy tanks, and the bottle hand-painted before release.

97+ points It’s almost impossible to pull away from the 2019 Nerello Mascalese Magma Rosso, with its beguiling bouquet of white pepper-tinged dusty rose offset by nuances of tangerine, pomegranate, and the slightest hint of animal musk. This is a seriously textural expression, with smooth contours and admirable weight that’s perfectly balanced by stimulating acidity. Its fruit is decidedly red and sapid, yet with violet-tinged inner florals and sweet minerality. While structured, the 2019 maintains fantastic energy throughout the long yet remarkably fresh finale, as licorice and hints of hard candies slowly taper off into oblivion.” Drinking Window: 2023-30

Eric Guido, Vinous
(This one gets our D&N Fine Wines recommendation stamp to it 100%!)

96 points “This is the icon wine that Cornelissen has made since his first vintage from vines planted in 1910, now more than a century old. Lean, restrained, and transparent but dense, with a firm, structured character, and taut tannins. Tensile and throbbing with pent-up energy, like scooped-up dewdrops from cherry skins served over black lava rock, like something there and not there, this is a wine you can never quite pin down. More of an experience than just a wine.” Drink 2022-2030

Robin Lee, The World of Fine Wine

Frank Cornelissen MunJebel Rosso 2019

The Munjebel is a blend of fruit from Frank Cornelissen’s vineyards across the northern valley of Etna. It aims to please, and it will excel at doing so through short-term cellaring.

92 points “Seduces with a rich and sweetly scented bouquet of crushed black cherries, dried roses, and cloves. It’s silky in texture, enveloping all that it touches with ripe red fruits and spices, nicely framed by saturating minerality, as inner violet florals form toward the close. There are tannins here, but they don’t get in the way; instead, they create a perfectly dry platform where notes of lavender, plum and allspice hover above.” Drinking Window: 2021 – 2027
EricGuido, Vinous

Frank Cornelissen - MunJebel Rosso FM

Frank Cornelissen MunJebel Rosso FM (Feudo di Mezzo Sottana) 2019

The Munjebel FM is 100% Nerello Mascalese produced from the lower elevations of the Feudo di Mezzo cru.

95 points “The entrancing 2019 Munjebel Rosso FM blossoms in the glass, with a dusty mix of sweet minty herbs and bright cherry complemented by a hint of cinnamon sugar. Its textures are like pure silk slowly draped across the palate, creamy, smooth, yet lifted and refined, delivering ripe red and hints of blue fruit under an air of lavender and violets. A pleasant inner sweet lingers on, along with a coating of fine tannins, as residual acids and hints of sour citrus maintain a lovely balance. The word “radiant” comes to mind and stays with me throughout the entire experience. Bravo. This is pure class.” Drinking Window: 2023 – 2028
Eric Guido, Vinous

Frank Cornelissen - MunJebel Rosso MC (Monte Colla)

Frank Cornelissen MunJebel Rosso MC (Monte Colla) 2019

The Rosso MC is from the steeply-terraced Monte Colla vineyard, with its seventy five-year-old Nerello Mascalese vines planted in sandy clay soils.

94 points “is deep and inward in character, but also remarkably pretty. This dark beauty wafts up with dried cherries and crushed rocks complemented by nuances of rosemary and balsam. It greets the palate with the silkiest of textures and ripe wild berry fruits, yet with a core of nervous acidity that builds an energetic tension. This is like the proverbial iron fist in the velvet glove, tapering off long with talcum-like tannins, as sweet tobacco and lavender tones fade over a contrasting savory bitter twang of balsamic spice. It’s an utter beauty, and it’s already showing so well.” Drinking Window: 2023 – 2028
Eric Guido, Vinous

Frank Cornelissen - MunJebel Rosso CR Contrada Campo Re

Frank Cornelissen MunJebel CR Contrada Campo Re 2019

The Campo Re hails from the western part of the northern slope of Etna at around 735 metres. The wine undergoes indigenous fermentation, followed by fifty days of maceration on skins and eighteen months of refinement in neutral epoxy tanks.

93+ points “Woodsy herbs and wet stone take on an air of white smoke and peppery florals as the 2019 Munjebel Rosso CR (Campo Re) unfolds in the glass. This takes its time, slowly opening, as wild strawberries, stems, and all, lazily come to the fore. It’s seamlessly silky and pliant upon entry, cool-toned as well, with a mounting saturation of red berries toward the close, adding an almost-chewy sensation. While structured with angular tannins, there’s a burst of inner sweetness that adds balance, as notes of fresh tobacco mix with licorice and hard red candies to create a finish that seems to linger on and on. The CR may be the longest lived of Cornelissen’s 2019 Rossos, but also the one that will take the most time to come around.”  Drinking Window: 2024 – 2032
Eric Guido, Vinous

Frank Cornelissen - MunJebel Rosso VA Cuveé Vigne Alte

Frank Cornelissen MunJebel VA Cuveé (Vigne Alte) 2019

So hot off the docks, we’re still waiting on the reviewers to release their thoughts, but here’s some reviews of the 2019 release…

97 points “Here we are with ungrafted 90-year-old vines at altitudes of between 870–1,000m. Complex and multi-layered, with pistachio notes overlaying pristine damson and juicy pomegranate, with dark notes of savoury bitter greens, black garlic, dandelion leaves, and nettles. Wild and elemental in character, with long and intense flavours, this is a fine example of Cornelissen’s signature style.”
Robin Lee, The World of Fine Wine

16.5 /20 “A blend of ungrafted Nerello Mascalese from Cornelissen’s three highest vineyards (hence vigne alte): Tartaraci at 1,000m at Bronte, Barbabecchi at 910m and Rampante Soprana at 870m at Solicchiata. First made in 2010. Bright crimson with a restrained nose. Backward and very tannic. Not to my taste – too introvert and tough at the moment – but it may get there in the end. Certainly ambitious!” Drink 2025 – 2035
16.5/20 Jancis Robinson

Frank Cornelissen - MunJebel Bianco

Frank Cornelissen MunJebel Bianco 2020

The Munjebel Bianco wine is made in a super complex way with a brief 4-day skin maceration, giving the wine some density and tannins whilst also bringing out the wine’s stony aromatics and smoky taste. Stunning! Electric!

“A veiled yellow colour. Complex aromas of pineapple, mango, and peach. Orange zest, honey, and sweet spices. Fascinatingly rich and salty. An oily, gingery, herbal flavour with a stonefruit body.” 
Frank Cornelissen Winery

“…the wines we tasted were precise and expressive, the Nerello Mascalese, his main red variety, transmitting the origin of the wines without any deviation due to winemaking. He is now set on the course of what he calls ‘high-fidelity’ winemaking.”

Julia Harding MW, for JancisRobinson.com