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Different? Yes. Delicious? Absolutely!!

Bryan Hinschberger
Jan 23, 2012 02:37 PM
So I've tried the ever-so-controversial wines of Frank Cornelissen several times now and in many types of occasions; whether we are analyzing exactly what is in the bottle and why it is this way... or whether we are trying to 'sell' the wine to a client... or whether we are just sitting down with friends and food in order to enjoy a good bottle of wine.  And although over the years these wines have raised plenty of eyebrows, and gained quite a reputation (whether good or not-so-good), I've got to say: that I freaking love these wines!!!  
The 12 hectare estate of Frank Cornelissen is located on Europe's tallest active volcano: Mt. Etna on the east side of Sicily.  The mountain reaches nearly 11,000 ft, and Frank farms his vines at about 3,000 feet above sea level in the North Valley of this piece of nature.  Although not even a third the way up this great mountain, Frank reaches higher than anyone really thought it would be possible to grow good grapes; espcially the way that Frank grows grapes.  He treats his grapes, olives, fruits, and nuts with the most naturally organic process that he knows how, and lets nature do the work.  He doesn't believe in using sulfur.  He ferments his wines in 400 liter terracotta amphorae containers that are buried to the neck in volcanic rock, and lets them carry out the entire process which sometimes takes close to a year!  He doesn't filter, fine, or make sure that his wines fit the stereotypical color scheme that people have grown to expect in their glass.  He produces wine exactly the way that he thinks wine should be made - as naturally as possible.
As one could imagine, this type of 'non'winemaking philosophy rocks the wine world a bit like a tumultuous sea crashing around a boat; up and down, side to side, EVERYONE seems to have quite an opinion on this style.  Google any blog on these wines and be entertained for hours.  Winemakers would call this method crazy, ludicrous even... and a complete gamble with the precious fruit's fate.  However, year after year, bottle after bottle, Frank accomplishes wine that not only creates a stir... but also pulls off remarkably drinkable wine.  
Now... although I think the wines are great, I understand not everyone will agree with me.  They are not all that pleasant to look at, holding a strange resemblance to home-brewed kombucha.  They are acidic, but they carry a very still and simple mouthfeel. The fruit derived from a sip holds not a place on an orchard tree, but rather just a memory of your childhood when experiencing new fruits for the first time.  The complexity seems so much different than a rich Bordeaux, a layered Meursault, or a gripping Barolo; yet it's complexity is no less than any of these.  The overall experience of these wines are not similar to any other wine you can buy on the market.  They remind me of a beer... mixed with a wine.... well sort of... but not really... I think?  So... are these wines different? Yes.  Are they also delicious? Absolutely!!!
The other night I sat down with some friends and opened a bottle of the MunJebel 7 Bianco.  A blend of grapes that nobody has ever heard of: Carricante, Grecanico Dorato and Coda di Volpe.  I cooked up a spicy vegetable noodle dish with a yellow coconut curry sauce that I ordinarily would pair with a sweeter Riesling from the Mosel, or a drier one from the Pfalz.  The wine by itself raised some curiosity, but also created some excited smiles.  The flavor was rich but mellow, fruity yet earthy, fresh while developed.  When washing down a bite of curry, a bit of 'food & wine' magic happened and all of a sudden, we couldn't stop talking about how delicious this crazy wine was.  Our kids wanted to smell it, our dog was drooling under the table (ok... she does that everytime we eat dinner), and we were hoping the bottle would last the whole night.  
But as expected and too quickly as usual, the bottle was emptied... and I left the table wanting to write about what had just happened.  Although this wine causes such a stir of conversation and even arguements among many, I appreciated it all the more because of this unique controversy.  Frank has put such depth and beauty into his natural production, that as the years pass... only greater things are to come.  Maybe it was the lovely company we were with, but I do know that these wines are something to talk about.
If you find them... enjoy them!  If you can't... find a wine that makes you excited.
Food & Wine
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Caprese Salad & Montepulciano Rose!!

Bryan Hinschberger
Aug 22, 2011 09:23 AM
So a month or two ago we brought in our first Italian Rosé... Italo Pietrantonj's Cerasuolo d'Abruzzo.  This is a wine made from 100% Montelpulciano... and if you have ever tasted any of Roberta's Montepulicanos... you know this wine isn't going to suck!!  So last night, my wife and I decided to crack a bottle (being that we had yet to taste this pretty bottle of pink since it has landed in the states).  It was a gorgeous early evening... the sun's heat was beginning to fade... food was underway... and a dry Rosé is the ONLY  way to go under such conditions.  Who wouldn't agree??
Skin maceration for 3 days gives this wine a perfect hue, a bright ruby-pink that dances a bit on the dark side (being that it is Montepulciano and distinctively Italian).  Cerasuolo (Chair-ah-swoh-loh) literally means "classic cherry" - and comes as no surprise when diving into the nose of this wine.  Bright aromas of cherries and raspberries are pleasantly accompanied by what I like to call "the Italian funk" - that rich earthy component that smells and tastes of fresh soil, tree bark, underbrush, blah, blah, blah... you know what I'm talking about - Italian wine!!!  The palate is fresh and vibrant and lingers into a great finish of cherry and almond skin.  The acidity is clean, and I deem this wine is a winner!
We paired this delcious pink with a traditional Caprese... heirloom tomatoes, fresh Mozzarella, garlic, shallot, balsamic, fantastic olive oil, and plenty of fresh basil!  Let's just say this was a pairing that screamed summertime... and if you are looking for a tasty rosé for your next meal - look no further - find this wine! 
Cheers everyone!
Food & Wine
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