10 April, 2022

Me: »Roland, tell me, you’re in Sicily, aren’t you? Could you bring me a natural wine? Here, this is how you’d ask for it in English: ›A natural wine is a wine made from organically grown grapes that are harvested by hand; without additives, without filtration and sometimes even without the addition of sulfur.‹ In Italian: ›Un vino naturale è un vino ottenuto da uve coltivate biologicamente che vengono raccolte a mano; senza additivi, senza filtrazione e talvolta anche senza aggiunta di zolfo.‹ Thank you! And do send photos!«

Roland: »Will try. Only have a suitcase for 4 people. I’m looking for a property at the foot of Mount Etna, let’s build something there. The volcanic ash is supposed to be great. Report to follow.«

Me: »Yes, well, only if it’s possible! I have a from there already with me, actually. By Frank Cornelissen, a Belgian. Located in Castiglione di Sicilia, on the northern slope of Mount Etna. I’d love to build something with you! We’d be the new Winzer dream team!«

I open our pantry and look for the wine of Cornelissen that I had bought yesterday from Drunk by Nature, Weinhandlung Suff’s natural wine offspring in Markthalle IX. I didn’t have his Rosé yet and Sylvain said it was very good so I bought it for 23,90€ (a Euro more online), although I had sworn to myself, that morning, to not buy anything from them at all that day. By the way, there is this 71-minutes-long video of Action Bronson and Cornelissen tasting Cornelissen’s wines if you fancy. I find it hilarious!

I open the bottle. The cork, see below, is quite something. I need to find out more about it. The wine… is superb: an intense and upright-standing nose of ripe strawberries and raspberries. In the mouth: full-bodied, self confident notes of what I smelt before paired with a long, flattering reverb, lasting for minutes on end. This is good. This is very good. This is great! Can I make out any ash-related flavours? No.

I take a look at Cornelissen’s website, my second visit, actually. I had looked him up two years ago, after I had watched that video mentioned above. His website is quite informative. So, here’s me quoting from the English original, referring to the wine at hand: »Our rosé is produced with the same phylosophy and vinification techniques as all our other wines: skin contact for texture and territorial identity, malolactic fermentation fully finished for density, fluidity and stability. Not only a refreshing summer wine from a blend of Malvasia, Moscadella, Insolia and Nerello Mascalese, as 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.« The text then becomes a bit more formal, or technical, but quite interesting nevertheless (I’m quoting it directly from the website, in its original layout, and have left out my quotation marks at the beginning and the end this time). I find especially interesting the notes on filtration, sulphur, annual production, stemware, »closure« and recycling (I deleted all notes that were referring to other cuvées; in the case of »vineyards« I couldn’t find out exactly which ones were used for the »Susucaru«). (The varietals mentioned below do not fully correspond with those mentioned above.)

Region: Etna, Northern valley
Vineyards: Picciolo, Calderara, Crasà, Muganazze, Feudo di Mezzo, Puntalazzo
Varietals: Malvasia, Moscadella, Cattaratto, Nerello Mascalese
Vinification: Destemming and light crushing of the grapes
Fermentation: starting with a ›pied-de-cuve‹ using only indigenous yeasts and skin contact for about 10 days
Aging: In neutral epoxy tanks from 2500 liters to 8000 liters
Fining: No
Filtering: Before bottling with PP cartridges of 1 micron
Sulphur: values can vary from 15 to 50 mg/l., added or not, depending on the quality of grapes and stability of the wine
Annual production: 30.000 bottles
First vintage: 2007
Denomination: IGP Terre Siciliane Rosato
Bottle type: Transparent burgundy bottle
Available sizes: 750ML, 1500ML, 3000ML and 5000ML (special request only)
Recommended stemware: Zalto Universal

How to recycle: we suggest to re-use rather than recycle wherever possible; obviously without counterfeiting…
Bottle: in glass-recycling
Closure: Ardeaseal in plastic-recycling
Label: Susucaru in plastic-recycling
Case: carton in paper-recycling, wood case best to be re-used
Pallet: wood or plastic; best to be re-used

I return to our pantry and look for the Georgian Rosé I also bought from Drunk by Nature’s stall in Markthalle IX yesterday for 22€. It would be interesting to compare it now to the one from Sicily. Funnily enough, in the glass they look quite similar. Both could go for a proper ›red‹ wine, not looking ›rosé‹ at all. Cornelissen’s Rosé is more pleasing and inviting, the »Otskhanuri Rose« from Gvantsa Otskhanuri’s domaine Gvantsa’s Wine more suprising and challenging. It came highly recommend by Sylvain. Although I have the utmost respect for Georgia’s wine-producing culture and history I, previously, had still to find a (natural) wine from that country I liked. (I highly recommend Alice Feiring’s »For the Love of Wine«, an entertaining and informative journey through the country’s natural wine scene!) No need to look any further: this is it. Bright, red fruits, strawberry and cranberry – more cranberry than raspberry. Tannins, full-on acidity, lean and fast like a bullet train. The English-language label on the back reads as follows: »We grow our local variety Otskhanuri in our family vineyards located in our small village of Obcha. In the Imari region of Georgia. We make this wine together as a family. Our Otskhanuri-Rosé is a dry salmon-hued rosé wine, with aromas of strawberry and raspberry, crispy and refreshing followed by a creamy mouth feel. We love it and hope you do too.«

The only, really the only, downside of this exceptional wine is the use of wax on top of the cork. It does look good and ›authentic‹ but it’s bad for the environment. And this is why I shall be investigating about the cork Frank Cornelissen uses soon – although it does look a bit ›technical‹.

Frank Cornelissen's Rosé »Susucaru« from 2020

Frank Cornelissen's Rosé »Susucaru« from 2020

»Otskhanuri Rose« from Gvantsa Otskhanuri's domaine Gvantsa's Wine

»Otskhanuri Rose« from Gvantsa Otskhanuri's domaine Gvantsa's Wine

The wax Gvantsa's Wine puts on »Otskhanuri Rose«

The wax Gvantsa's Wine puts on »Otskhanuri Rose«

The ArdeaSeal. On the company's website there is a quote by Frank Cornelissen: »I first discovered the Ardeaseal® closure back in 2008 when it was called Gualaseal, being part of a search and research for excellence and improvements. As of 2015 we implemented this closure not only for our top wine, Magma®, but to all our wines, as Ardeaseal® for me is the best technical closure for unaltered organoleptic precision of the wine, long aging capacity, equal oxygen exchange for each closure thus avoiding bottle differences and, last but not least, eliminating wine taint. In few words: the holy grail of wine closures«

The ArdeaSeal. On the company's website there is a quote by Frank Cornelissen: »I first discovered the Ardeaseal® closure back in 2008 when it was called Gualaseal, being part of a search and research for excellence and improvements. As of 2015 we implemented this closure not only for our top wine, Magma®, but to all our wines, as Ardeaseal® for me is the best technical closure for unaltered organoleptic precision of the wine, long aging capacity, equal oxygen exchange for each closure thus avoiding bottle differences and, last but not least, eliminating wine taint. In few words: the holy grail of wine closures«

The ArdeaSeal's top

The ArdeaSeal's top