Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 23, 2020

2019 COS, Frappato, Terre Siciliane IGP, Vittoria, Sicily, Italy.
Giambattista Cilia and Giusto Occhipinti’s COS winery is celebrating its 40th harvest with this lovely vintage of their iconic bottling of Frappato, and this 2019 is everything you’d expect and admire about this wine and grape with bright strawberry, lingonberry and earthy red berry fruits, delicate spices, sweet herbs and chalky notes in a medium bodied red wine that caresses the palate with satiny tannins. The COS winery was founded in 1980 by three friends, Giambattista Cilia, Giusto Occhipinti, and Cirino Strano on the site of a historic, but long forgotten wine estate, and is named after these three friends, COS is the initials of their last names. COS was and is a pioneering estate that helped start the organic and natural wine movement in this part of Sicily and takes great care with holistic methods, including some biodynamic practices in the vineyards and innovations in their cellars with the use of special amphora vessels and using only natural/native yeast fermentations with some wines seeing long skin contact macerations. The soils here in the Vittoria region, unlike Etna’s volcanic influence, are red clay and limestone based, giving incredible vibrancy to the wines and even in ripe years they remain fresh and low in alcohol, with this beautiful ruby red COS Frappato being just 11.5% ABV and the acidity delivers wonderful balance and a citrusy bounce. Frappato’s charms are many, both solo and part of a blend, but it is its ability on its own to offer loads of fruit while still being structured, slightly rustic and having a subtle floral perfume making it highly compelling and excellent with a wide range of cuisines. Giusto Occhipinti of COS, and his talented niece Arianna Occhipinti, with her own label, are benchmark producers of Frappato, as well as the DOCG Cerasuolo di Vittoria, which is Frappato blend with the classic Nero d’Avola, and these are wines to search out. There is a lot to unpack at COS, their collection offers many jewels, including this Frappato, but their Amphora wines are outstanding wines with the Pithos line being really excelling stuff, with the whites standing out here, especially the Zibbibo version which is extremely exotic and perfumed.

The COS team and in particular Occhipinti, extensively researched many aging vessels, with trips to remote parts of Europe, including the Republic of Georgia, where he studied their famous Qveri and eventually decided on a combination of 440-liter clay (terra-cotta) amphorae sourced from Spain along with a collection of large neutral botti (oak cask) as well as concrete tanks (used mainly for this Frappato bottling). The clay, as Giusto explains, is porous like oak but has the advantage that it imparts less flavor to the wine than does even large, old casks and helps with textural quality. He says, all of the aging of his wines is done in one of these three vessels, with stainless steel tanks only being used these days for assembling the wines, clarification and settling before being bottled. The 2019 COS Frappato was produced from all hand tended certified organic estate vineyards in the Vittoria region set on sandy parcels with iron rich red dirt over the limestone and hardened clay at about 300 meters above sea level which allows a nice cooling influence from the moist breezes coming from the sea, all of which add to the zesty personality and complexity in the wines. As mentioned, the winery allowed a spontaneous indigenous yeast fermentation and a lengthy maceration for this Frappato, all done in concrete vats with the wine seeing a elevage of about nine months exclusively in the cement tanks, and as the winery notes, this was followed by three months of rest in the bottle before leaving the cellar. I am grateful for the efforts here at COS, these wines have given me so much pleasure and I was thrilled to meet and taste with Giusto a few years back in San Francisco, where he gave amazing insight on to his passion and evolution as a winemaker as well as his discovery of an ancient bottle on the property that led him to bottle the COS wines in their distinctive squat glass that dates back to 1880 and become their trademark look and widely copied around the world. If you’ve not explored this region or grape, it is way past to try Frappato and especially this COS version. Frappato has gained many fans over the last decade and in some exciting news, there is now some planted in California, inspired by COS and others, I can’t wait to see how this grape does here.
($28 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive