Are Frank Cornelissen's wines really all they are hyped up to be?
After a long, long day of extensive research for photoshoots, I found myself with one thing on my mind. I need a damn good bottle of wine! But not just any wine, I need something out of this world, something awesome. For some reason, I could not get the thought out of my head that I needed a bottle of something by Frank Cornelissen. I was hoping for Susucaru, but I know it is too early for that, so I gleefully settled on a bottle on Munjebel. I know right? It seems insane that I was "settling" for one of the hottest wines in the world, but yeh.
Luckily I found myself in Boston's Prudential Center and standing about 150ft away from Eataly Boston. I made a B-line for the wine section in the bank. Stormed in and asked Hoyt, who was tending the store, if they had anything from Frank Cornelissen. "YES!!!" Was his immediate reply. In fact, I don't think I can accurately portray his excitement in writing. Three exclamation marks do not seem fitting. It just doesn't seem to be enough. Maybe seven exclamation marks? I don't know, but he was super excited. We talked a bit about the wines, and how hot they were. For example, Eataly blew through their white wine allocation in just two weeks. I asked if there would be any Susucaru coming in to which the answer was yes, in a month, and there were already people putting their names down for some. I'm number 4 on that list! Whoop!
Frank Cornelissen wines are super hot right now. But how the fuck did this one small winemaker from Sicily become so damn famous? And what is it about his wines that make them so popular? Are they all they are hyped up to be? To answer those questions you need to dig a little and you'll find a story that says as much about who we are today as it does about super awesome wines.
So who the fuck is Frank Cornelissen, and why is he so famous?
Long story short, it all has to do with Action Bronson. The Vice media superstar who is the host of F*** That's Delicious, and not to mention an incredible rap artist and trained chef. It was Action who introduced us to Frank Cornelissen. In an episode where our hero travels to Sydney, Australia with his faithful sidekick Mayhem Lauren, Action orders a bottle of Susucaru.
"You saw my face when they brought the Susucary out, I was like a little fucking kid! It's like my mom just bought me NBA Jam Tournament edition when the Susucaru came out."
We see a bright pink bottle, a man living life to the fullest, eating good food, in great company, and feeling blessed. The wine made the night, but blink and you might miss it. Those with a keen eye recognized that the wine was the star in Action's eyes, and almost overnight it became a smash hit. People were or an adventure to discover it, and finding an eccentric Belgian man waiting for them at the end of the rainbow.
Maybe eccentric is too harsh a term, but Frank Cornelissen's views are certainly esoteric. Frank is about as minimalist in his approach to winemaking as they come, believing even biodynamic practices to be too interventionist. His belief is that we as humans could never fully comprehend mother nature, and as such his vines are left to grow wild, as they wish, and as nature intended. What better place to do so than at the foot of Mount Etna, where Mother nature is at her most vibrant, her most intense, and expressing herself in a swooning tone that Aretha Franklin would aspire to. It was, after all, upon drinking an Etna Rosso that Frank decided to pursue winemaking.
Terroir almost seems to simple a term to describe what is being expressed in Frank Cornelissen's wines. There is so much more happening here. There is life in these wines, its almost as if nature just found the right person to bring us the wine they always intended to bring. Wine geeks are fawning over their purity. Cool people are drinking them because they are so in love with natural wines. If there ever was a wine that was a symbol of our time, if there is a winemaker who is central to how we drink today, its Frank Cornelissen.
But are Frank Cornelissen's wines worth the hype?
How do I put this bluntly? You bet your sweet ass these wines are worth the hype!
For most wine lovers these are going to be super funky, super strange wine. If you have never had an Etna Rosso wine, or a natural wine before, then you are in for a real lesson as much as you are in for a real treat. The wines are intense, something that you would not expect them to be. The acidity is electrifying, the fruit flavors are so forward they almost kick your mouth in, and the earthy tones make you feel like you are licking the foot of an active volcano...while it is exploding in the background...and you just don't care. It is probably the single most electrifying experience you can have drinking a wine.
And yet there is an awesome balance to everything. You can see how these wines have become such a cult hit. For most of us, we will be able to tell that these are damn good wines right off the bat, without the need for an extensive WSET lesson plan, or having our hands held by a Sommelier. The labels are cool, so they fit right in with our hip wine collection. They are drinkable, something you don't have to hold onto forever, but it would not hurt if you did. Anybody who is serious about wine is going to love the paradox between earth and fruit flavors, the high strung and yet perfectly poised acidity. Whats more, these wines are the pinnacle of the natural wine movement. With as little intervention as Frank Cornelissen could possibly put into his wine, he manages to make a wine that is just about perfect by any stretch of the imagination. Then you consider that his standard Munjebel retails at $45, and Susucaru is usually less than $30, his wines are accessible and never going to break the bank while still remaining a precious treat. I mean your mom's not going to buy you NBA Jam Tournament Edition every day, is she?
So as I sipped away on my second glass of Munjebel next to my girlfriend, and we watched as the bottle slowly came to its inevitable end, I felt as though I was saying goodbye to a friend. Not for long though, but as soon as that last drop fell into my glass I was planning our next adventure. When would I see Frank again? When could we get together next? I knew it was not going to be any time soon, but when they bring the Susucaru out I'm going to feel like a kid at fucking Christmas.