Harvest, Mentoring and Amphorae at COS

When I arrived at COS, these luscious grapes were ripe for the picking. It is hard to convey what an event the harvest is. Having been a teacher, it reminds me the end of the school year: when I felt both the satisfaction of knowing what my students had learned and the sadness at letting them go. There was also the sense of possibility in knowing that the new year would soon start with another group. So it is with the vines; the cycle continues.

While the picking was in progress, I walked among the vines with COS co-owner, Titta Cilia, who has primary responsibility for the vineyards, while his business partner, Giusto Occhipinti, takes care of the cellar and external relations. See post about founding COS. He talked about the vines as if they were his students or even children. In this video, he explains how he bends them to get more sprouts on each section of the vine..

Meanwhile, these three young interns, who were the core of the COS harvesting team, were learning by doing.
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Giusto and Titta are mentoring and teaching the next generation the way Marco De Bartoli of Marsala mentored them from 1981 until he passed away in 2012. De Bartoli was on the forefront of the “quality” revolution not only in Sicily, but also in Italy. In this video, Giusto talks about how De Bartoli influenced him.

De Bartoli is most famous for his De Bartoli Vecchio Sampieri Ventennale, made from the Grillo grape variety with the soleras method. This wine is made in the town of Marsala, but it is not Marsala (wine with added liquor). Instead, the wine slowly becomes oxidized and the alcohol becomes more concentrated from evaporation as the wine ages.

At one point, the authorities in Marsala closed de Bartoli down for several years because they didn’t believe he was making his Vecchio Samperi without adding liquor. He was a brave pioneer for reaching back to tradition.

Giusto and Titta reached back even further back in time to Georgia (Russia) where wine was first made and later brought to the Mediterranean. COS began experimenting with fermenting and macerating wine in clay amphorae, and the result is their COS Pithos [glossary_exclude] Rosso [/glossary_exclude] (a classic Cerasuolo di Vittoria mix of Nero D’Avola 60% and Frappato 40% but classified IGT because of the use of amphorae). See end of previous post.

Here, the grapes that the interns had put through the de-stemming machine, arrived by tube into the amphorae.

The amphorae are buried in the ground, thus maintaining a constant temperature. The grapes ferment with the indigenous yeasts on the skins of the grapes. At the end of the day, Giusto and Titta left the anphorae while discussing a myriad of details about the harvest. The cycle continues.

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