This stuff messes with my head……and I dig it.
A quick glance around the table see’s four heads bowed …schnozolas pressed deep in the glass, brows furrowed….the occasional sideways glace at the neighbor and then everyone jumps into action….looking up and blabbering out various vinous incantations ….. lot’s of praise in the case of this wine but hey!….it could have gone either way for a second there and it was a good crowd.
The wines of Frank Cornelissen can be a pretty confronting….., captivating, confounding bunch……possibly more so the whites…..or oranges as the case may be…..than the reds, with their souk-like, almost sexual, fragrant lilt….plenty of phenolic ooomph and a David Lynchesque palate presence and structure.
The reds seem to be a bit more approachable but no less fascinating and thought provoking….they come from Sicily and in particular the arid landscape of Mt Etna where Frank Cornelissen owns an 12 ha estate of which 8.5 ha is under vine.
Frank uses the classic alberello (or goblet) training system for the vines which lie between 650-980 metres altitude in the North Valley of Mount Etna….they are pruned hard so the yields are tiny…around 300g per vine…and there’s no chemical intervention in the vineyard. the rows are inter-planted with local fruit trees to encourage bees and build up the ecosytem.
The Rosso del Contadino is a fruit salad wine with many varieties making it into the final blend depending on the year…..Carricante, Inzolia, Cattaratto, Nerello Mascalese, Alicante, Nerello Cappuccio….grapes, both white and red will make their way into the wine.
The fruit is harvested by hand and fermented using natural yeasts in 700-1000L polycarbonate fermenters ……this fermentation and maceration can last up to several months before the wine is pressed off into terracotta amphora where it stays for 10 months. Before bottling the lees are stirred up and it’s bottle with no fining, filtration or SO2 additions.
The colour is a murky, turbid cherry red and the wine immediately has your eyeballs twitching as you try to make sense of it’s heady smells….there are lifted aromas of cherry and strawberry fruits with some raspberry high tones and you seem to be constantly doing olfactory double-takes, as you scratch for descriptors of the aromas presenting themselves.
There are hints of plump green kalamata olives, tobacco, green mulberries, borscht, celery salt, wet stone, redcurrant, herbs, minerals and some sauerkrauty, VA lift. Aspects of exotic spice fade in and out and there is a bucolic, animal-like edge to the whole shebang….it’s a fascinating wine to smell.
On the palate, it’s primal and edgey with red-tinged forest fruits and sour cherry fruit, splashed with strawberry and raspberry highlights and struck with piercing shafts of minerally acid. It’s medium-bodied and startlingly energetic as it rips across the mid-palate leaving trails of herbs, spice, dried flowers, green olive and tobacco….again with that gamey, raw-edged sweet & sour interest….a unique, cerebral wine with plenty of earthy intensity….a wine that is alive and makes the drinker/thinker seem more alive in the process.
I need a lie down now……
Price: $80 – Closure: Synthetic – Alcohol: 13% – Source: Cellar – Importer: Addely Clark