Approaching Cornelissen’s table at the Expo, I immediately felt welcomed by his calm demeanor. Unlike other vintners at the expo, he wasn’t antsy to get on with his sales pitch. Instead, he seemed genuinely interested in each attendees’ comments on his wines. He was a conversationalist with a knack for answering questions. In fact, I learned quite a bit about his wines in just a small chat with him. Cornelissen’s wines are best described as extreme wines produced in a non-interventionalist manner. He prunes away all unripe grapes, ages the wine in terracotta vases buried under volcanic rock and refrains from adding sulfur dioxide. Check out the detailed description of Cornelissen’s method at Wineanorak.com.
My first reaction to his wines was a surprise at the unique colors. The white wines, including the Munjebel 4, were cloudy and dark goldenrod in color. I later learned that the gold color was attributed to the fact that Munjebel was vinified like Cornelissen’s red wines, in full and long skin-contact to extract its territorial identity. On the other hand, the reds at the table were deep in color, leaning towards auburn and brownish-red colors. Truly distinct.
Upon tasting the wines, I first noticed the distinct presence of the terroir, the geographical characteristics of the wine. Cornelissen explained that the vineyards are located on Mount Etna at about 3,000 feet. I now get a sense of why he may have picked the name “Munjebel” — the mountain’s Arabic name is Jebel Utlamat (the Mountain of Fire), being that it is the largest active volcano in Europe. And thus, “Jebel” seems to be a hint as to the choosing of “Munjebel”, but I’m still not sure what “Mun” means. Anyone out there have an answer?
To say the least, Frank Cornelissen’s wine are the most unique and curious set of wines I have tasted. Being excited about their specialness, I purchased a bottle of Munjabel 5 Rosso for a “thank you for hosting me” gift last month. I was happy to find that the wines are available at Crush Wines & Spirits in Midtown, including Cornelissen’s famous Magma red wine. I had the distinct pleasure of enjoying the Magma at the Wine Expo. It was an experience that will not soon escape my memory. If you haven’t already tried it, put it on your bucket list.