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…spontaneously fermenting

A tasting note: 2007 Frank Cornelissen Munjebel Bianco 4

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Date tasted:  June 2nd, 2009 15:00(3pm)

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.”

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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.

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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).

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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.

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Please check out my video wine tasting of Frank Cornelissen’s Rosso del Contadino! Click below and forgive the quality:

Wine Tasting with Vinosseur – 2007 Frank Cornelissen Rosso del Contadino 5 from vinosseur on Vimeo.

Category: 1 WINE, 2 PRODUCER PROFILE, 3 TASTING NOTES, 31 Days of Natural Wine, 9 WINE THOUGHTS, Frank Cornelissen - Mt. Etna (Sicila), Italy, Italy, Mt Etna, natural wine (100% living wine), orange wine, Sicilia

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A tasting note: 2006 Vinarstvo Simčič Rebula Seleklija (Reserva)

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Date tasted:  May 19th, 2009

Exciting things are happening in Western Slovenia and North Eastern Italy.  The exciting thing that both countries have in common is the Rebula (Ribolla Gialla) grape which is quickly gaining cult status among us wine nerds.    It produces aromatic wines with high acidity and when a little skin contact is added to the mix, wines of great complexity and length can be produced.  (White) wines with skin contact are gaining popularity in the wine world and being referred to as “orange wines” due the color that extended skin contact gives the wine.

2009-05-19_1693Vinarstvo Simčič is situated in Ceglo (Zegla), a small village in the region of Goriska Brda, by the Slovene-Italian border, by the Italian hills of Collio.  Half of their vineyards lie in Slovenia while the other half lie in Italy.  An hour and half drive will get you both to Venice or the capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana. I have been told that this is one of the top producers in Slovenia, if not the top.  In fact, I was speaking to a respected source who also sampled some of their red wines (blind) and said that they were better than many Bordeaux’s….

They grow 100% of their grapes in their vineyards, which cover 16 ha.   They believe in the most natural methods of viticulture, reducing crop and leaving the grapes on the vine as long as possible.  They also follow ancestral and traditional vinification methods in the cellar, which is located 5 meters underground.

This wine is the Rebula Reserva (Seleklija).  The Rebula vines are 48-51 years old and lie at an altitude of 200-250 meters above sea level.  They have a North-West exposure and the soil is composed of marl, slate and sandstone.  The grapes are hand-harvested (bunches are carefully selected)  at the beginning of October.  The fermentation takes place with the skins in 3000 liter conical oak barrels (tino) using only indigenous yeasts.  The wine is separated from the skins after 6 months of maceration.  The wine is then matured in big oak barrels for 2 years.  The wine was bottled in September of 2008 without fining or filtration.  No added sulfur.  Only 2000 bottles produced.  13.5% Alcohol (14% according to the label).  Total acidity is 4.56 grams per liter.  Price in Norway is 250 Norwegian Kroner ($39)

2009-05-19_1688First tasting:  15:51 (3:51pm):  (from the refrigerator)

Appearance: Apricot orange.  Very clean looking with medium intensity.

Nose: Yellow fruit especially yellow plums.  Fresh apricots.  Hints of acacia honey.  Hints of herbs with underlying minerals

Palate: Ripe fruit, apricots, sultana raisins (semi-dry).  Medium to medium plus acidity.  Medium to medium plus alcohol.  Long finish, light minerality.

Second tasting:  16:31 (4:31pm):  (cellar temperature)

Nose: Tighter, more complex yet more focused.

Palate: Focus on the palate also sharper, alcohol a lot more integrated (interesting since this was now a few degrees warmer).  The wine has become very elegant with very mild tannins starting to emerge.

Third tasting:  21:00 (9:00pm):  (cellar temperature)

Nose & Palate: Amazing focus and elegance with “sweet” fruit emerging.  Lots of apricots.  Mild tannins, ripe acidity and great length.

This wine improved after being open half a day.  I often find that wines that are more natural tend to improve over the course of several hours and even days.  Unfortunately, this wine was so good that it never had a chance to make it to day two or three.  In my opinion this is a serious wine well worth the price tag.

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Category: 1 WINE, 3 TASTING NOTES, Goriska Brda, natural wine (100% living wine), orange wine, Slovenia

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Vino Vino Vino 2009

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I had the opportunity to check out the Gruppo Vini Veri, Vino Vino Vino 2009 gathering at Villa Boschi in Isola della Scala, Verona Italy last week.  I had never been to this gathering before, so I really didn’t know what to expect. Although some things impressed me, I was also disappointed by others. Of course I didn’t get to taste everything, but from my sampling, here’s my personal feedback.

manifesto.inddFirst, the positive. Many exciting wines coming out of Sicily. These Sicilians, especially around Mount Etna, are delivering fresh and interesting wines from  indigenous grapes. White wine grapes like the Carricante and red wine grapes from the Nerello family. What really impressed me the most about these wines was the freshness, something you are seeing more of in well-made Sicilian Wines. Many of these wines were natural, without the addition of Sulphur Dioxide, no filtering and thankfully, no oak. Many of the wines were fermented/stored in cement, steel or amphora’s.

It was also nice to see many “orange wines”, white wines made using maceration techniques (letting the grape must sit with the grape skins for some days) rendering some white wines with a more orange-like hue. Although some of these were exciting, fresh and well-made, many were over-macerated, overly tannic and bitter. Just because this old wine making technique is coming back into fashion, doesn’t mean you should be (over) doing it! Listen up!

Then, there were too many wines from the region of Tuscany. It seemed that upwards of 25% percent of the producers at this gathering were from Tuscany. Although there were some interesting (and excellent) wines from Tuscany,  I found most to be too similar and un-interesting.

The most disappointing thing for me, however, was the shortage of non-Italian wine makers. I understand that Italy has more vineyards being farmed organically (up to 5 times) than other European wine-making countries and that we were in Verona, Italy, but I would have liked to have seen more French, Spanish, Portuguese and German (etc.) wine makers at this gathering.

Overall, I can see that producing natural wine is becoming fashionable and trendy. I am glad that at least natural products are becoming trendy and fashionable, but I felt that there were too many wine makers making natural wine because it was the fashionable thing to do. Thankfully, you can taste who these copycat producers were, and they were not good.

I would like to end this entry on a positive note by saying that I was happy to meet some wine-makers whom I have had some contact with both personally and of course through their wines:

Drink more naturally made wines and wake up the next day feeling fresh!

Category: 1 WINE, biodynamic wine, Events, natural wine (100% living wine), organic wine

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Vinosseur is the company name of sommelier Joseph R. Di Blasi. Vinosseur.com is his web page where he writes about wine, food, restaurants and other gastronomic experiences.

Joseph has a special place in his heart for quality wines from the old world, especially France & Italy, with a strong focus on Organic, Biodynamic and Natural wines.

Joseph grew up in Italy and California, but left The States in 2002 and now resides in Poland.

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Joseph would love to hear from you! You can contact him by email at vinosseur@gmail.com