If Salvo Foti and Ciro Biondi thoroughly tell the story of Etna's past, then Belgium-born Frank Cornelissen illustrates the adventurous spirit of Etna's future. Cornelissen has been producing wine on Etna's highest elevation, north-facing vineyards since 2001. His style has changed quite a lot over the years, but he's perhaps recognized most for his insistence on a zero sulphur approach in the cellar. His name can be a lightning rod in the world of wine, and certainly in Sicily. After years of changing small details in the cellar his wines today are cleaner and more composed than ever before. This is the wild side of Mt. Etna.

Today, I'm happy to offer Frank Cornelissen's 2015 Contadino and Munjebel Rosso, as well some ultra-rare single vineyard parcels of Munjebel.

Cornelissen grew up in a family surrounded by wine in Belgium where his father worked as a wine broker. His studies created an intense fascination for the volcanic terroir on Mt. Etna's north side. He believed fervently there was a unique voice here, and he had his own plan of attack to tell the story of place.

He set his eyes on working strictly with old vines, 40-years of age being about the minimum under his estate. The process started with only 1.5 hectares in 2001 and now has grown to 12 hectares, with vines going back to plantings from 1910. 

Everything that's exceptional and intriguing about the Cornelissen wines exists in the vineyard. These are some of the most awe-inspiring parcels I've ever set foot on. Walking among the 100+ year-old Nerello Mascalese vines tied to the local chestnut alberello stakes was a dramatic experience, faced out from these terraces seeing the valley below with towering mountains in the distance. The black sandy volcanic soils that falls through your hand immediately draws to mind the power of this active volcano beneath your very feet.

Frank's work in the cellar is something that needs very little time to detail here. He's moved away from amphora, and oak is never used. All wine are aged in fiberglass-lined tanks. His interests are in expressing Etna without any intervention from materials outside the vineyard. The tanks are completely inert, serving only as a safe vessel for aging. There's zero sulphur added to the wines at any point. This regimen requires the winery to be a extremely clean from top to bottom and every detail of work here is done with the most scrupulous eye. It was evident the second we walked in that this was a very different kind of cellar.

The non-sulphur regimen brings a vividness and bright, fresh quality to the fruit profile that stands out immediately. The minerality from this singular soil is certainly obvious, but the dynamic personality of the fruit makes itself known first. I personally find that non-sulphured wines, when executed the very best, have an added high-toned spicy quality that offers an abundance of concentrated wild fruit that's rare to come across in more conventional wines. This quality can be divisive in some circles of drinkers, but I find it to be fascinating. Coupled with clean winemaking and it's something that rapidly pulls me back for sip after sip, nearly unconsciously.  

Contadino is a prefect introduction to the style of his Nerello Mascalese-dominant wines. Spicy and very lifted in 2015. 80% Nerello Mascalese, with Nerello Cappuccio and Minella Nera, Alicante Bouchet.

Munjebel is composed entirely of very old-vine Nerello Mascalese, and is the wine Frank feels reflects Etna the very most, with raw power and uncompromising minerality. *Single vineyard parcels are bottles separately in very tiny quantities and are also listed below. 

Last's night a bottle of 2015 Munjebel Rosso opened alongside my favorite local burger proved to be downright delicious. Perhaps more importantly, it was again a great reminder these wines today with their pristine soundness bear very little resemblance to those produced in many years past where problems related to the zero sulphur approached were, for me, too problematic. Clean as a whistle is how I'd describe these 2016's and 2015 single vineyards.