Take Heed, Terroir Lovers

Today’s Story: Azienda Agricola COS

Azienda Agricola COS is a revered wine estate established in 1980 in Vittoria on the Italian island of Sicily. COS was established by three friends, Giambattista Cilia, Giusto Occhipinti, and Cirino Strano, with the first letter of their last names creating the acronym of COS for which the project is named. COS is largely considered a pioneer and champion for Sicilian wines, namely seeking to prove that world-class and high-quality wines can come from the island. COS farms all of their vineyards adhering to organic and biodynamic principles, and they have never used synthetic or chemical fertilizers throughout the life of the venture. This philosophy carries over into the cellar as well, where the wines are made as naturally as possible. For instance, COS is an adopter of clay amphorae dug into the ground for aging because Occhipinti believes them to be a vessel that doesn’t mask any terroir-driven element of the wines. For any bottlings that do not age in amphorae, they use large neutral Slavonian oak botti or concrete tanks to similar effect. All wines see extended maceration, including the whites, which Occhipinti uses as natural preservative so zero sulphur needs to be added during winemaking and at most a minimal dose is added at bottling.

Today’s Wine: 2014 Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico delle Fontane

60% Nero d’Avola, 40% Frappato; 13% ABV

The 2014 Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico delle Fontane is medium garnet in color. I elected not to decant this wine because it seemed fairly expressive out of the bottle, though it did really open up after about 30 minutes in the glass. The aromas are of pronounced intensity and the nose is rather complex, showcasing notes of dried cherry, strawberry, red plum, anise, a hint of brett, leather, forest floor, green herbs, eucalyptus, and crushed volcanic rock. The flavors are also of pronounced intensity and the palate is equally complex, displaying notes of black raspberry, tart cherry, red plum, licorice, brett, cured meat, damp tobacco, truffle, forest floor, and mineral. This dry red is medium-bodied with high acidity, medium (+) dusty tannins, medium alcohol, and a long finish. Though there is fruit, this is so terroir-driven you can practically smell and taste the earth where these grapes grow.

Price: $45. For me, this is a great value wine but I love the terroir-driven profile of it. This strikes me as a wine people would either love or hate, and I would encourage the jammy-fruit-bomb lovers to look elsewhere unless you are looking to expand your horizons. This wine’s intensity, complexity, and transparent sense of place are all remarkable to me and I would highly suggest trying this if the profile seems to fit your palate.

Fun Sicilian Blend From a Rising Star

Today’s Story: Azienda Agricola Arianna Occhipinti

Azienda Agricola Arianna Occhipinti is a continuously rising star of a winery established by Arianna Occhipinti in the Vittoria region of southeastern Sicily in 2004. Though Arianna started making her own wines at the young age of 22, she first got into wine even younger at age 16 thanks to a visit to Vinitaly with her uncle Giusto Occhipinti of COS, another benchmark Sicilian wine producer. Today Arianna works with estate fruit, sourced from her 25 hectares of certified organic vineyards which are planted to about 50% Frappato, 35% Nero d’Avola, and 15% between the white varieties of Albanello and Zibibbo. Arianna never irrigates her vineyards or uses any chemicals, and since 2009 she transitioned to biodynamic viticulture. As far as philosophy goes, Arianna’s wines are meant to showcase the terroir of Vittoria, and they are made in as “natural” a way as possible. Vineyard work is very manual, all grape and wine movements use gravity, and the wines ferment with only indigenous yeasts in concrete tanks before aging in neutral oak. Arianna produces ten wines (including three single-vineyard bottlings called Vino di Contrada) and total production each vintage is around 10,000 cases.

To learn more or view the portfolio of Occhipinti wines in more depth, I recommend visiting the website here.

Today’s Wine: 2019 SP68 Rosso

70% Frappato, 30% Nero d’Avola; 12.5% ABV

The 2019 SP68 Rosso is medium ruby in color. Given about 30-45 minutes to open up in the glass, the nose offers up aromas of red cherry, dried strawberry, red rose, mild tobacco, gravel, dried garden herbs, and scorched earth with medium intensity. Meanwhile the flavors on the palate are also of medium intensity, showcasing notes of pomegranate, red plum, tart cherry, candied rose, eucalyptus, white pepper, and crushed rock minerality. This dry red is light- to medium-bodied with medium acidity, medium (-) tannins, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $28. I think this offers pretty solid value for the price. Even though I would prefer a bit more intensity out of it, the balance, length, and complexity of the wine all shine and should only get better in another year or two. Very easy to drink, so the bottle didn’t last long.