Since it’s fall and root vegetables are in season now, I thought I would take this time to finally, after a quiet year (of not updating much), get back to my roots.
So here are two visuals of what I consider back to roots that stimulate me. Beet roots and Rosso del Contadino. Both come from the land and from nature. Both are natural. both are delicious
The Contadino 9 continues Cornelissen’s drive to create the best wine he can from the grapes that nature gives him. Thanks to Frank’s careful attention to not disturb nature, she gives him healthy grapes. But if it wasn’t for his intellect and expertise, the wines would not be as wonderful as they are. Because I know, and especially he knows, and despite what many winemakers say, wine IS NOT made in the vineyards. The raw materials come from the vines, but knowing when to harvest the grapes and what to do next can only be decided on by the winemaker.
This is why Frank’s wines taste of the volcano. Deep, salty and bloody. They come from a place that is undisturbed by humanity and they taste that way. So, with all the respect that is due you Frank, thank you. Thank you for understanding nature and how to take what she gives you and produce some of the most compelling wines I have ever tasted.
I have written before about Frank Cornelissen. To refresh your memory, click here for one of my previous tasting notes and more about Frank.
I may not have mentioned this before, but I feel very fortunate to live in Norway when it comes to wine. We do get our hands on some pretty obscure and rare wines that very few other places in the world get. This wine is no exception. The 2002 was his second vintage in which he produced about 2000 bottles total between the 3 Magma’s and one Rosso del Contadino. In this vintage, Frank Cornelissen produced 3 different single-vineyard bottling’s of the Magma 2. The Calderara, Trefiletti and the Marchesa vineyards. Approximately 1300 bottles of the Magma’s were produced. That’s it.
The Marchesa vineyard is an ungrafted vineyard which is normally very sun exposed and has a good balance between tannins and density. According to Frank, this was a “backward” vintage, and therefore the alcohol was rather low, even harvesting as late as November 2nd. Harvest of the Nerello Mascalese grapes are done by hand and the grapes are foot trodden. The wine was fermented in Amphorae buried in the ground up to the neck (to keep the Amphorae from exploding during fermentation). Only indigenous yeasts are used of course, and the wine is left to macerate with the skins for between 5 and 6 months. The wine is bottled directly from the Amphorae without fining nor filtration. Nothing is added nor taken. No added SO2.
504 bottles of the Magma 2 Marchesa were produced, approximately 150 came to Norway. Like I said, I feel fortunate to live in Norway. Price at time of release, 1000 Norwegian Kroner ($155).
Bottle opened at 22:45:
Appearance: Very light red but within 15 minutes darkening to a darkish purple, black then going back to red again within a few minutes. This is certainly a “living wine”.
Nose: Crushed rose pedals, dark plums, rose hips. Very farmyard, especially dead sheep (the specific dead sheep comparison came from my two Norwegian friends who were tasting with me). Wild, sour, small cherries. Hints of dark cocoa. Hints of Macadamia nuts, eucalyptus. Much more tight and precise than it was the first time I tasted this wine back in 2006. If you breath in deeply, hints of prune juice without the dried fruit aspect.
Palate: Extremely concentrated but very light and fresh with red fruit dominating. Within a few seconds, the tannins arrived and held firmly. None of us could sense the 13.7% alcohol, it was extremely well integrated. The acidity was medium plus and very ripe and “sweet”, but the wine is bone dry. Hints of plums that have been picked a week before being over ripe, the fruit is very ripe. No dried fruit evident. Sour fruits. Every sip seems different and has you going back for another. The wine will most likely run out before we finish analyzing this bottle. There is a slight nuttiness on the finish with super-ripe fruit that lingers and these two aromas add incredible complexity to the wine. One of the most fantastic and interesting wines I have ever tasted, again.
Tannins really stepping up, but not dominating. More nutty macadamia’s starting to show.
This is the hard part of this entry, having to write and report the following:
The wine seems to be “dying”. The finish seems to fade quickly now. The 3 tasters all agreed that the wine was now dead. Perhaps if we had waited, and if we had any wine left, the wine would have come back alive. I am not sure. I should also mention that this wine was not stored perfectly.
To conclude, I feel that this wine will throw many old school wine people off. I believe they will most likely say that the nutty aspects of the wine are signs of oxidation and therefore this wine is not a good wine, and therefore not well-made. This being said, you have to remember that when judging a wine, you must do so as objectively as possible. You cannot let your personal opinion of weather or not you like the wine enter into the equation. There are many well-made wines that I just don’t like, that doesn’t change the fact that the wines are well made.
The facts about the Magma 2 Marchesa are that this wine is well made, has tremendous concentration, complex aromas both on the nose and palate, is extremely well-balanced and the finish seems to never end. These are
facts that are undeniable and in my opinion reflect an excellent, well-made wine. Don’t get distracted by the nutty aromas and forget the aforementioned quality attributes.
Translation of back label:
Ingredients: Only Nerello Mascalese Grapes from the 2002 harvest without the addition of any other ingredient.
Attention: This wine has not been modified. It doesn’t contain stabilizers nor preservatives. There will be a natural deposit because the wine has been bottled without filtration. It’s important to store the bottle at temperature of less than 16°C (60.8° F). It’s recommended to not decant.
Frank Cornelissen owns about 12 ha on Mt. Etna in Sicily. He’s a non-interventionist who says “Consequently this has taken us to avoiding all possible interventions on the land we cultivate, including any treatments, whether chemical, organic, or biodynamic, as these are all a mere reflection of the inability of man to accept nature as she is and will be.”
Frank & Alberto at the top of 'Rampante', the pre-phylloxera vineyard at 1010m altitude located above Solicchiata on Mt Etna after the devasting forest fire of 3 full days & nights.
On a postcard I recently received, he goes on to say “To produce a bottle of genuine, natural wine, the recipe is simple: take large quantities of dedication, determination, intuition and coherence. To these ingredients throw in a strong dose of masochism in order to physically and emotionally survive the difficulties and downsides of this ‘Art of Wine’. Finally, enjoy a glass (or more) of this wine, before sending the rest around the world to good homes.”
Of all the “natural” wines I have tasted, Frank’s are always the most interesting. I am not saying that his wines are the most well-made of the natural wines I have tasted, but his are always the most engergetic. And, definitely the most natural tasting compared to his counterparts. From the very rustic labeling, to the almost opaque wines that are very obviously not filtered nor fined.
This “orange” wine is no exception. Made from the local (white grapes) Grecanico Dorato, Coda di Volpe, Carricante and Cattaratto grapes, this orange wine is barely see through. This cloudy wine is so packed full of sediment that I swore I could see chunks of grapes floating towards the bottom of the bottle. Of course this is a “slight” exaggeration, but it sure made me happy knowing that this wine was made from something (grapes) that was growing wild in the vineyards, and nothing else. His wines are the most natural of the natural wines I have tasted, and this wine was no exception. His wines have a certain “energy” about them which is hard to put in words, but they make you feel good.
The grapes for this wine come from various vineyards on Mount Etna owned and cared for by Frank. Frank harvests the approximate 13ha/hl of grapes totally by hand. The bunches of grapes are put into a destemmer and crushed, not pressed at this time. This machine is more of a crusher than a destemmer as it hardly removes any of the stems at all.
The must is then placed into plastic containers in his backyard (no temperature control here) which are then covered with a tent-like plastic material to keep the rain out. Of course only indigenous yeast here. The wine is left to spontaneously ferment and macerate with the skins for about 4 months giving the wine it’s apricot-hued glow. The wine is then pressed into Amphorae with the help of gravity and then bottled. Absolutely nothing else is added to this wine. Nothing. Not even SO2 (Sulfur Dioxide). The wine is not fined nor filtered before being bottled and this is evident. Since Frank bottle’s his wine without filtration, the last wines bottled have more sediment than the first ones.
First tasting 1500 (3pm):
Appearance: A very cloudy, unfiltered appearance. Loads of sediment which are very visible to the naked eye. In the glass, the wine has an apricot juice hue with a medium intensity. It is hard to analyze intensity with an unfiltered wine of this type (wine with high intensity glows can indicate a high level of intensity and vice versa).
Nose: Apricots with hints of minerals and loads of farmyard (those of you familiar with red Burgundy know what I am talking about). The distinctive (for me) Cornelissen pickle juice. Dry hay and flowers.
Palate: Wild just like the other Cornelissen wines. Typical. A little tingle at the front of the tongue initially from the slight residual CO2, which quickly burns off with a little swirling of the glass. Medium minus tannins. High acidity, but not harsh, just mouth watering and mature. Pickles and smoke. Kumquats. Essence of apricots and peaches, but not sweet. Bone dry with around 2g/liter of residual sugar according to my palate.
Second tasting 1809 (609pm):
Nose: Much more pickles and farmyard. Less distinct apricots. The apricot aromas I do get are of unripe apricots.
Palate: Medium minus tannins. Rosemary, sweet yellow fruit at the back end, apricots. Finish is long and persistent with mild tannins, great acid and smokey flavors. The wine sits and sits.
Interesting to note that although the wine was dry, it paired well with sweeter dishes. It worked well with my honey and lemon marinated chicken. It was also working surprising well with my Mexican Cactus Fruit.. Strange….
I’m always fascinated with the fact that the few bottles of natural wine that I manage to keep open a few days seem to only improve.
Please check out my video wine tasting of Frank Cornelissen’s Rosso del Contadino! Click below and forgive the quality: