Having recently finished an excellent book on the wine scene in Sicily, I can’t get it out of my mind.  Maybe also because of some of the excellent Sicilian wines experienced on the LA adventure, or perhaps that my family roots run to Sicily on my mother’s side.  I have always wanted to go there, and this book, whether you are a wine lover or not, will make you want to get to Sicily.  It is a picture of a country that is rough and wild and traditional.  A beautiful enigma, and like the land and the people, so are the wines.  You can get your hands on the book Palmento at your local book store, if one still exists near you, or you can find it here on Amazon.  While this book is about wine, it is also about the people behind the wine, and it is a great glimpse of Sicily.

Founded in 1980, COS represents one of the leaders in the new wave of Sicilian winemakers.

The wine history of Sicily goes way back.  As far back as anywhere else in Italy, if not further.  Sicily has a massive amount of vines planted, and has done for ages, but until fairly recently it was primarily known for bulk wine and Marsala.  And while both of those still exist, there has been a renaissance of sorts over the past 30 years that continues to gain steam and bring the new generation of Sicilian wines more and more to the world’s attention.

COS is perhaps the originator and most well known of the new wave of Sicilian wineries.  There are numerous others that have gained an international following, all of them chronicled in Palmento.  But COS has been a leader in not just planting international varieties and trying to make a buck off their coat tails, but instead reaching to the indigenous varieties of Sicily, like Nero d’Avola, and Frappato, etc. and championing them by making extremely fine and interesting wines.  The legend of COS is well known to wine insiders and wine geeks, but less to the average Joe perhaps.  I had thought that their wines would be a bit more savage than the COS Pithos bottling I recently tried from the Natural Wine Company.  COS (and acronym of the three owners initials) is not as wild as the most wild of Sicilian wine makers, Frank Cornelissen, but it is very singular.  The wine is made using traditional Roman amphora and stylistically I would put it somewhere between a Jura (Puffeney) red and a Cru Beaujolais (Jean Paul Brun), which is not a bad place to be in my book.  At about $35 this is not inexpensive, but the wine is fantastic and a must try.  There are not many wines being made in amphora so for that fact alone it is worth exploring the wines from COS.

Different in style from the COS Pithos, the Calea typifies what I have come to expect from a Sicilian Nero d’Avola.  It is more full bodied, but Nero d’Avola is a more full bodied grape, Frappato lighter in body, of which the Pithos is a blend.   You can note from the photo of the two glasses the difference in the color of the two wines.  That said, the COS, which was the lighter bodied wine, had more depth and layers than the Calea Nero d’Avola.  I would put the Calea down as a good bargain given the $13 price point.  It is a straight shooter, and though a bit one dimensional to my tastes, it would surely be a hit at a BBQ.

The Calea Nero d'Avola is more opaque and purple hued, the COS Pithos a transluscent garnet, almost Pinot Noir like.

COS 2009 Pithos – Sicilia  $34.99

The COS Pithos is a blend of 60% Nero d’Avola and 40% Frappato.  It is aged in Roman style terracotta amphora.  It is lite garnet in color, with a tart berry and cherry pit primary fruit component.  It has notes of white pepper, cinnamon spice, and lite medicinal herbs.  There is good solid acidity and lift and the wine is lite on its feet, layered, and delicious.  The Pithos is only 12% ABV, and could be drunk on its own, slightly chilled, or paired with many types of Italian cuisine.  Reminds me of a mythical offspring of Jura and Cru Beaujolais.  Delicious and more approachable than one might imagine.  Purchased at Natural Wine Company, but widely available.  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Calea 2010 Nero d’Avola  ~$13.00

Plum red garnet in color, the Calea is a value driven Nero d’Avola.  While moderately full bodied, it does avoid being too hot or plummy, coming in at a respectable 13% ABV.  It has notes of Bing cherries, plum, red spice, and a hint of menthol.  This is what I would call BBQ wine.  Great for a party, sure to be a crowd pleaser, but lacking some depth and refinement.  But we all need a good value BBQ wine, and this fits the bill.  Purchased at Frankly Wines.  RECOMMENDED – CHEAP AND CHEERFUL