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Food and Wine Gazette: Azienda Agricola COS: A Sicilian Winemaker with a Difference
Napa Valley Register: COS Winery: Giving Natural Wine a Good Name
Wine Enthusiast: Ancient Vessels, Modern Wines
Lonely Planet: On the Grapevine: Five Must-try Sicilian Wineries
Wine Enthusiast: Red-Hot Sicily's Top Wine Regions
If you live in America and have had a Sicilian wine lately, you have COS—at least partly—to thank for it. The success of this winery, started by a trio of high school friends in 1980, helped put Sicilian viticulture on the international map during a time when it was mostly producing bulk wine. Though Sicily has a millennia-old wine culture, there had been a decline in winemaking for more than a hundred years when Giambattista Cilia, Cirino Strano, and Giusto Occhipinti (acronym of their last names is where the name for the winery – COS – comes from) were given some grapes by Occhipinti’s father to "give them something to do" before university. From that early experiment, which involved foot stomping and an old antique hand press, they’ve been at the forefront of winemaking in the Cerasuolo di Vittoria region, which became Sicily’s only DOCG in 2005.
In fact, experimentation has been something of a defining ethos for COS. They tried making ripe wines with French barriques, but eventually settled into the style that they’re now famous for—natural, unadorned wines that show their place. Their estate grapes are farmed organically and biodynamically. The vineyards are dry farmed unless extremely dry weather requires irrigation. They use only indigenous yeast. They ferment the Pithos label in 400-liter Spanish clay amphorae buried in the ground, controlling temperature with a system of water tubes. They power their winery with solar panels. Each part of their process works to unprocess; that is—to preserve the fruit as the land gives it to them. Even their bottles are a stubby-shaped nod to their site—a replica of one that was excavated from their vineyards. These wines are benchmarks for the region, as distinctive as the folks behind them.