Saturday, February 9, 2013

Sonnet to Sicily

Sonettu a Sicilia

by Frances Di Savino

This isle, age-old and new, so close and far,
its rocks, its soil, its vines, bear fruit and wine;
its light, its heat, its winds, swell sea and star,
to see and smell, to hear and feel them shine;
This we came to touch, to taste - then to show -
the roots, the flavors, and fragrant places,
the coasts, the hills, where native grapevines grow;
to roam orange groves and ancient spaces.
Thus we scribe your story of then and now,
of pilgrims questing for the golden thread,
of farmers tilling earth and pushing plow,
to plant and harvest, of both heart and head.
Marsala, Menfi, Messina, Milo -
Read your long-lost tale of love and vino.

I wrote this sonnet as a gift to our editorial team at the University of California Press in honor of the publication of our book. My inspiration was the first sonnet ever written - a literary invention of Giacomo da Lentini, a notary and poet in the Sicilian court of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II in the 13th century.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Pithy Wine

COS vinifies and matures Pithos Bianco (Pithos white), made from Grecanico, in 400 liter clay amphoras dug into the ground. Contrary to standard practice for modern white wine production, fermentation occurs in contact with the skins. The wine is bottled in the spring after the harvest. In order to improve stability, it is lightly sulfited before bottling. COS also produces a Pithos red, a Nero d’Avola-Frappato blend.

I recently sampled a 2010 COS Pithos Bianco ($38 retail in the Boston market). It was copper-yellow tinted. I smelled untoasted nuts, pear, and musk. Although there were smells recalling old apple juice, which I associate with oxidation, these smells did not increase with aeration as would normally be the case in a wine in rapid deterioration.  Though dry and moderately low in alcohol, the wine was slightly more viscous perhaps indicating a high level of glycerol. It was savory, pleasantly bitter and slightly astringent.  I look forward someday to enjoying it with a simply roasted whole chicken. Appreciation of this wine demands a mind open to exploring unconventional flavors.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Sweet Sicily

“And I do not beseech you on behalf
of my homeland.  I am a foreigner:
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 
My origins were there - yet Sicily
is dearer to me than all other countries.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 
sweet Sicily is now my country - and,
kind Ceres, may your mercy save this island.”

Ovid, Metamorphoses (translation
by Allen Mandelbaum in Ovid in Sicily)

Tarocchi oranges are the sweetest of the Sicilian blood oranges. They grow in the plains of Catania and on the slopes of Mount Etna.